Laird Cronk is the president and Sussanne Skidmore is the secretary-treasurer for the BC Federation of Labour. (File collage)

Laird Cronk is the president and Sussanne Skidmore is the secretary-treasurer for the BC Federation of Labour. (File collage)

OPINION: Let’s celebrate working people — and work together for a fairer B.C.

‘This year has reminded us all of just how utterly and completely our province relies on working people’

By Laird Cronk & Sussanne Skidmore

This Labour Day is a lot different from past years. You won’t see the big parades, rallies and parties we usually have. Instead it’s small, carefully-distanced backyard get-togethers and on-screen virtual celebrations.

But there’s a deeper change that’s happening too. Something important has shifted in British Columbia.

This year has reminded us all of just how utterly and completely our province relies on working people: to keep our economy going, to provide the necessities of life, to deliver the services families need.

2020 has taught us that the front lines are much broader and deeper than many people assumed. Suddenly, many of the lowest-paid workers in the most precarious jobs in BC are finally getting some long-overdue recognition. And we’ve stopped seeing workplace safety as something that only affects individual workers, and recognizing it for what it is: a vital underpinning of public health.

What’s more, we’re discovering that there’s a lot more we can be doing to make life better for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted governments to come together with quick, dramatic action on a wide range of fronts: supporting the incomes of laid-off workers, protecting vulnerable British Columbians with increases to disability and income assistance rates, providing help for renters, subsidizing wages, investing in health care and education, improving employment standards and workplace safety, and even making the first moves toward paid sick leave.

Of course, a lot of this has happened because BC has the benefit of a provincial government that listens to working people. The contrast with other provinces — and south of the border — is often stark.

But we’ve also had something else on our side: a strong, determined labour movement backed by working people across BC. And there’s every reason to believe that movement is gaining strength.

There’s a new momentum for organizing, and a big part of that comes as the pandemic shows working people that our lives are on the line. The stronger and more united we are, the better we’re able to press for safer workplaces, better working conditions and a fairer deal.

And that’s doubly important now, because we’ve learned something else in the past several months.

COVID-19 exposed how deep and wide the gaps in our province are, and how many people have been left out and sold short in BC’s economy. Those gaps and inequities weren’t just unfair in and of themselves. They were vulnerabilities the virus exploited, and left us all more exposed and at risk.

But the way we’ve responded, as communities and through our governments, shows us we don’t have to just accept those gaps. And we don’t have to recreate those inequities.

So as much as 2020 has been about shutting down, it’s also increasingly about opening up — that is, opening up possibilities for positive, lasting changes. And this year, that’s what’s really worth celebrating: this new sense of possibility and potential in the strength we have together.

The pandemic is far from over, but the rebuilding in BC has begun. And as we rebuild, we can regain what we had — but we can also rebuild something stronger and fairer.

We can build stronger, more resilient communities that are better able to grapple with big challenges, whether it’s ending this pandemic, fighting off the next one or addressing the threat of climate change. We can build a fairer, greener economy where everyone can benefit — and where we make every job a good job. We can make investments that improve crucial services everywhere from classrooms to hospitals to transit.

And thanks to the working people of British Columbia, we are going to emerge from this pandemic. So that we can hold out hope that next year, we’ll be able to truly celebrate together.

Happy Labour Day, everyone.

Laird Cronk is the president and Sussanne Skidmore is the secretary-treasurer for the BC Federation of Labour.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Roxy Manson (far right) collects community sock donations from Walk the Coast. Manson collected more than 500 pairs of socks with her “Warm Socks to Warm Hearts” campaign. The socks will be distributed to community members who are living in the cold. (PHOTO COURTESY CAM MCARTHUR)
Alberni teen collects more than 500 pairs of socks for people in need

Warm Socks to Warm Hearts campaign ran throughout the month of November

The Alberni District Secondary School musical theatre class will be putting on a virtual performance of Shrek the Musical Jr. (PHOTO COURTESY TARYN POTTER)
ADSS musical theatre class puts a twist on fairy tales

Shrek the Musical Jr. will be a virtual performance due to COVID-19

Dave Heinrichs, general manager of Alberni District Co-op, and Paulette Schwartz, manager of the Liquor Depot. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Co-op buys Liquor Depot in Port Alberni

Co-op members in Port Alberni will soon be able to enjoy their benefits when purchasing liquor

An air ambulance leaves West Coast General Hospital for a trauma centre at 9:50 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12 after a Port Alberni youth was injured in an accident on the Somass River. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO
COVID-19 outbreak hits West Coast General Hospital

One unit closed; emergency department still open

Community Policing volunteers Ricky Paul and Gerry Stewart patrol the parking lot at Northport Plaza on Thursday, Nov. 19. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni community policing launches Crime Watch

New program will be ‘extra eyes and ears’ for the police

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are inviting audiences into their home for ‘A Celtic Family Christmas’. (Submitted)
Natalie MacMaster coming to you through Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Here’s your chance to enjoy the famed fiddler in an online show with her husband Donnell Leahy.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

Most Read