hen Daniel Bastien took a job as a hotel waiter he had no idea how poorly he would be treated. Bastien quickly got involved with a union and encouraged the others to do the same. The union stepped in and the harassment stopped.

Bastien’s ordeal seems like it could have taken place a hundred years ago. But, it was just a few years back The Globe and Mail picked up the story, making it clear that unions are as important today as they were when Ottawa declared Labour Day a national holiday in 1894.

Labour Day’s true meaning, praising the essential role of the Canadian worker and the representative bodies behind them, often goes unrecognized.

Canadians celebrate the day as the end of summer – one last day to take advantage of warm weather. While Labour Day’s true meaning, praising the essential role of the Canadian worker and the representative bodies behind them, often goes unrecognized. Ironically, the very existence of the holiday is an achievement of these unions.

In the past century unions have fought to secure many of the benefits that Canadians now take for granted. Among those are minimum wage, health and safety regulations, as well as leave for sickness, vacation, and maternity. “Today, we carry the baton brought forward to us by our brothers and sisters who sacrificed so much for the betterment of future labourers,” says Joseph Mancinelli LiUNA International Vice President.Unions are continuously working to improve the lives of workers, and to better Canadian society as a whole.

Continuing to take a stand

They’re pushing for minimum wage that represents a living wage — the minimum income necessary to cover basic needs based on cost of living. They’re taking steps to improve the mental health of those in the workplace. Unions are encouraging the federal government and employers to invest more in job training and better employment opportunities for young people, most of whom face high rates of unemployment or underemployment and carry huge student debt.

Unions are also dedicated to the well-being of newcomers. Concerned that the government’s Temporary Foreign Worker program is exploitative, they are pressuring Ottawa to give migrant workers access to permanent immigration status, the Canada Pension Plan, and Employment Insurance benefits.

“Workers’ rights are embedded in our charter of rights and freedoms,” says Mancinelli. “There can be no greater achievement than knowing that the right to collective bargaining, worker safety, and fairness are protected and enshrined as the supreme law of the land.”

The unions’ motivation and mission is to give every individual in this country a reason to celebrate Labour Day.