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

Cops For Kids ride wraps in Okanagan

No pomp, no circumstance for end of milestone 20th anniversary fundraising bicycle trip

Former Kelowna cop faces fourth lawsuit alleging sexual assault

Ex-Mountie Brian Mathew Burkett is also separately facing seven charges of breach of trust

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Smoky skies clearing throughout B.C. Interior

Environment Canada expects “widespread” improvement for all affected areas by Sunday

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Squabble over mask policy at LUSH in Kelowna mall

The woman filmed the encounter at LUSH Cosmetics, where wearing a mask in-store is company policy

Province opens ‘middle income’ housing in Kelowna

Prices on the units are $1,300 for a one-bedroom and $1,780 for a two-bedroom, nearing area-average prices

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

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Reward offered for return of Okanagan puppy

An 11-week-old boxer-mastiff cross pup was allegedly taken from its Kelowna Friday, Sept. 18

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Most Read