For the fifth year in a row, hundreds of people came out to Sunnidale Park in Barrie to celebrate the gains labour unions have won for working people during the last century.
More than 1,000 people participated in this year’s Barrie Labour Day event, twice the number that attended the inaugural event in 2009.
“Labour Day was created to recognize the value that working people and labour unions have provided to Canadian society,” said event organizer Joanie Cameron Pritchett. “We wanted this event to be open to everyone, including the families of workers, whether they belonged to a union or not.”
The event was organized by the Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU), along with the York University Staff Association, SEIU Healthcare, PSAC, ONA, OSSTF and the Barrie and District Labour Council.
“Labour Day is about bringing workers together,” says York University Staff Association President Giulio Malfatti. “There may be different unions at this event, but we all work together for the common goals of social justice, fairness and workers’ rights.”
The event featured some live music by The Dirty Little Swing Thing, a five piece rock band that played everything from the Stevie Ray Vaughn to Daft Punk, from hard rock to disco, to the delight of the crowd.
“Despite the rain, this year’s Labour Day event was a great success,” says CCU Treasurer Janet Brewer. “We invited not-for-profit organizations and charitable groups in Simcoe County as well. They do so much for our region, and we wanted to recognize them for their efforts in the community.”
M&M Meats provided the BBQ with hot dogs and hamburgers, Steve Fox from Fox’s Bakery supplied delicious breads, Moonwalk Bouncer and Amusement Rentals brought jumpy castle and face painting for the kids, and a magician entertained parents and children alike.
Also participating was the Barrie New Democratic Party Riding Association and the Barrie Injured Workers Support Group, which fights for the rights of the tens of thousands of workers injured on the job each year across Canada. Barrie Conservative MP Patrick Brown, Liberal MPP Ann Hoggarth and Mayor Jeff Lehman also attended the event.
The origins of Labour Day in Canada are traced back to April 14, 1872, when a parade was staged in Toronto to support the Typographical Union’s strike for a nine hour workday. After 24 members of the union were arrested, labour leaders called for a demonstration to take place on September 3rd of that year.
“People of all ages really enjoyed the event this year,” says Pritchett. “During challenging economic times, workers and unions need to come together like never before to protect what we have won through decades of struggle.”