Welcome Brothers and Sisters to this year’s mayday celebration
70 years ago in 1945 IWA local 1-424 received its charter from our international Union. In those days the fight was not only for living wages and working conditions but for recognition as the workers representative.
In those early days of our Union we had an employer driven wage structure, which had a rate for the Chinese and other minorities and a wage rate which was higher for all others.
The first major battle was to eliminate this wage discrimination with a view, if you work in the forest industry the rate of pay will be equal for all regardless of race or gender and the IWA became the first industrial Union to gain equal pay for equal work in Canada.
Throughout all the battles and strikes, Union members had by their side the IWA woman’s Auxiliary. Without their support and perseverance the gains we enjoy today would never have been realized. There was an old news letter from the woman’s auxiliary with a quote from one of the strikers wife’s a lady by the name of Kate Mc Fairland.
Don’t wallow in your beer and cower with fear and blame the Union for this strike. Stand tall head high and march without fear because I will stand with you, march with you and fight with you, should you ask. I will feed you and support you and heal your wounds, it’s what I will do for you. So stand tall walk with pride and face the buggers down because you’re not alone. And when you win the fight you face today, we will share that beer in victory and be proud of all we achieve this day.
As a Union we have come a long way and remain proud of our achievements, understanding that the fight continues to improve the wages, benefits, working conditions for our members. But also for those unorganized and looking and hope for support for their struggles. Every day we hear of new stories about workers from all sectors being exploited, treated like slaves and even murdered for just trying to earn a living. We have an obligation to these workers and families as organized labour to support their struggles and give them our support wherever they maybe and whomever they are. The fight for justice knows no borders, as we struggle through our dealings with employers and our members, we must never forget the sacrifice of those that pioneered our movement and the challenging road ahead. At the last mayday event, we acknowledged and expressed shock at the deaths of over 1200 garment workers in Bangladesh. Today their fight for justice continues and their fight is our fight. Although we have all made gains, we need only to look around the corner and understand, with the stroke of a pen it could disappear.
As we celebrate our 70 years as a local Union, we also know the road ahead won’t get any easier, but standing united we can continue to build the house of labour and improve the lives of others through our organizations and perseverance.
Thank you Don Iwaskow