Like a lot of events this summer, the Labour Day Picnic in Riverside Park is making a comeback. The event held by the Guelph & District Labour Council has cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 and replaced with a Labour Day parade, but this Monday it’s hot dogs and samosas and solidarity in-person just like old times, and probably with a lot of political talk as well.
“Labour Day is an opportunity for us to be together in celebration, but also to discuss the things that matter most to workers,” said Labour Council president Jennifer Hesch in a media release.
“Community and solidarity are important to union members, and we’re happy to be able to welcome everyone to this event once again. We encourage members to bring a friend, a family member, a neighbour or a co-worker to the event. Let them see the amazing community of workers we have built and show them the strength of union solidarity.”
Of course, Hersch is the vice-president and chief negotiator the Upper Grand Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents local elementary school teachers, and labour relations with teachers will be very top of mind this fall. Last week, education workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) set the date for a strike vote, which will be on September 23, and they’re unlikely to be the last ones to set such a date.
There’s also the small matter of an election. Yes, relations between the City of Guelph and labour seem relatively calm after the smooth negotiation and approval of new contracts with CUPE workers earlier this summer, but the candidates running for school trustee might have to deal with the fallout of any potential job action by education and teachers.
But those education-specific issues are just tip of the iceberg for labour concerns. From affordable housing to creating a living wage to issues around the environment and other concerns, the Labour Council will also likely use the occasion of the picnic to promote a slate of candidates, or make endorsements of their preferred candidates in this fall’s election.
“Canada is in the midst of an affordability crisis and workers are the solution,” said Hesch. “It’s up to us to come together in solidarity and demand better from our decision-makers. Corporate greed has driven our economy for far too long. Worker power is the way forward, and it starts with strong organizing.”
The Labour Day Picnic takes place on Monday September 5 from noon to 3 pm in the Pavilion at Riverside Park.