Labour Day 2016

September 5, 2016 at 11:01 pm (Uncategorized)

I attended the Labour Day parade in Toronto every year from 1987, the year I moved to Toronto, until 1995 (the last parade before I move to Calgary in 1996). I marched first as a member of the Alliance for Socialist Action (a predecessor organization of Socialist Action), and then as part of the Bolshevik Tendency. I quit the latter at the end of events on Labour Day 1995.  The following year, I was in Calgary where I lived for two years, and then attended sporadically in Toronto after that. Probably the last time I went was 2001, when I handed out an IWW leaflet.

In Canada, at least, the Labour Day tradition predates May Day as a workers ‘ holiday, and finds its origins in a strike in the 1870s for a 58-hour (!) work week. The first Monday as a public holiday took root in the 1880s and was officially proclaimed as such in 1894. The US holiday was also established in 1894 ostensibly as a reaction against violence against worersd  during the Pullma Stike, but more likely as a peaceful legal alternative to May Day and the spectre of Haymarket.

Labour Day in the 21st century has a strange duality. For the unions, it’s still a time to come out and to officially celebrate accomplishments and to speak in a militancy which is altogether absence from their practice (another post for another day), but more often than not, it’s also an opportunity to shill for whichever capitalist politician the unions perceive is “pro-labour.” (If you watch US news coverage, you’ll see a lot of pro-Hillary stuff today). And that will likely earn you a 15-second soundbite on the evening news.

But for most people in North America, it’s the end of summer. The last long weekend before school starts (my kids go back tomorrow, so right now they’re dragging their feet around the house, trying not to think about it).  The last picnic. Maybe some fireworks. Time to close up the cottage (although everyone hopes for one or two more great weekends), and the beginning of the long relentless trudge towards winter.

In Toronto, the parade is over now. Marchers used to be able to get into the last day of the Canadian National Exhibition for free. Hope you Enjoyed the day off.



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