Every year on the first Monday of September, America celebrates its workers and their contributions to our nation’s strength and prosperity. The idea that work is valuable, and even noble, dates back to ancient times.
In the Old Testament, for example, we read that “six days shalt thou labour.” The modern holiday of Labour Day was born in the late 19th century during a time of great social and economic upheaval in America. At that time, the average American worker toiled 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in an effort to eke out a bare living. Child labour was common, as were dangerous and unhealthy work conditions. Strikes and other forms of protest were often met with brutal violence from police and hired thugs.
In response to these conditions, workers across America began agitating for better treatment. On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off and marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding signs that read “Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Sleep, Eight Hours for What We Will.” The parade was a success, and similar events were held in other cities in the years that followed.
In 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as the date for Labour Day, and the Central Labor Union urged workers across America to take part in a nationwide strike on that day. On September 3, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill making Labour Day a national holiday.
Today, we continue to celebrate workers and their achievements on Labour Day. Although conditions have improved dramatically since the 19th century, there is still much to be done to ensure that all workers are treated fairly and have the opportunity to earn a decent living. Let us all take this day to recommit ourselves to that goal.
The custom of putting on a wreath began in the United States during the 19th century. With an aim by labor unions to show the numbers, strengths, and spirit of working men and women at work, as a holiday Labour Labor Day began in New York City in the 1880s. They organize pyramids, organized parades and rallies, and utilize demonstrations to demand for new legislation that will benefit workers, such as standardizing the eight-hour workday.
The first Labour Day parade in Canada was held on September 3, 1872 in Toronto. The parade was organized by the Toronto Trades Assembly and about 10,000 workers took part.
Labour Day has been celebrated on the first Monday in September in Canada since the 1880s. It is a statutory holiday in every province and territory except for New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
In some provinces and territories, it is also known as Civic Holiday or Simcoe Day.
On this day, we celebrate the achievements of workers and their contribution to the economy. We also use this opportunity to advocate for better working conditions and employee rights.
The movement initially began in other cities before it reached Congress and made labor unions a national holiday in 1894. However, over time, the observance of the day has changed from its original purpose to now primarily being seen as the last chance for a summer getaway with family and friends.
In some cities there are still large parades organized by labour unions, and many workplaces remain closed on Labour Day. It is also a time for picnics, barbecues and other outdoor activities.
In the United States, the holiday is often referred to as “Labor Day”. It is a day to celebrate the achievements of workers and labor unions in America. The first Labor Day was celebrated on September 5, 1882, in New York City. The parade was organized by the Central Labor Union, an organization of trade and labor unions.
Canadians are not members of trade unions and have no desire to do so. That is the most obvious and (in terms of numbers) most compelling conclusion drawn from our national poll of 1,000 employees. We can see a significant shift in Canadian society behind that one fact: the long-delayed but apparently inevitable death of a formerly powerful force in national life.
The survey, released this week, found that only 15 percent of Canadian employees are union members. And when asked whether they would vote to join a union if they could, only 16 per cent said they would.
Those numbers are down sharply from even a few years ago. In 2008, for instance, Statistics Canada reported that 30 percent of workers were unionized.
There are many reasons for the decline, but one looms large: private-sector unions have been in long-term decline for decades and now account for only six percent of private-sector workers. That’s half the level of just 20 years ago.
The public sector has been a different story. Unions there have been growing steadily and now represent 35 percent of public-sector workers.
But even that growth has not been enough to offset the decline in private-sector unionization. As a result, the overall unionization rate has been falling for years.
The new Nanos survey is further evidence of that trend. It suggests that Canadians are increasingly unsympathetic to unions and their activities.
Asked whether they approve or disapprove of unions, only 37 percent said they approve. That’s down from 46 percent in a similar Nanos poll taken just two years ago.
And when asked whether they believe unions are good or bad for the economy, only 32 percent said they believe unions are good for the economy. That’s also down from two years ago, when 39 percent said they believed unions were good for the economy.
The declining support for unions is not surprising. For years, unions have been on the defensive, under attack from governments, businesses and the general public.
Governments, both federal and provincial, have been increasingly hostile to unions. Businesses have been trying to find ways to reduce their costs by cutting jobs and benefits and outsourcing work to non-unionized companies. And the public has become less tolerant of union demands, particularly when they seem unreasonable or excessive.
The result has been a slow but steady decline in unionization. And as unionization has declined, so has public support for unions.
The new Nanos poll suggests that Canadians are now at the point where they are no longer willing to support unions, even when they are trying to improve working conditions or protect jobs.
It’s a major change in attitude, and it could have far-reaching consequences for the country. Unions have been a powerful force for good in Canada, helping to raise living standards and improve working conditions for millions of workers.
But if Canadians no longer believe that unions are necessary or desirable, then the country will be poorer for it.