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

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy is the largest protected area in southeastern B.C. Photo: B.C. Parks
Province adds land to Valhalla and Purcell parks

Both additions enhance the parks’ ecological values, the province says

RCMP responded to a report early Friday morning of a suspect firing a gun at a Salmo home. Photo: Black Press
RCMP arrest woman who fired shots at Salmo home

The woman allegedly discharged a firearm early Friday morning

Nelson is holding a municipal by-election to replace former councillor Brittny Anderson, who resigned in December. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson by-election nomination deadlines set

Candidacies must be registered between Feb. 9 and Feb. 19

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

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

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read