Sunday, September 8, 2013


           Once again, the Labour Day Weekend is upon us so the time has come, (ALREADY), for me to do my annual “the summer is over” whiny schtick. Any of you regular readers of this column will be all too familiar with my love of summer and hatred of its ending but I won’t bore you with any more details than that this time around. For a detailed view of my humble opinion on the matter you can go to my blog site: and search out last year’s write-up and save us both some time. Thanks.

            The summer of 2013 will actually end on September 21st but for all intents and purposes the Labour Day Weekend will signify the unofficial and symbolic end to the summer season. According to traditions of old, after this weekend it’s time to put away the white outfits and break out the backpacks and book-bags. But before that happens you should hit the cottage, the lake, the swimming pool, the water-slides and the vacations spots one more time before getting back to “normal”. Yes, like it or not, summer has passed us by one more time. There might still be some “summer-like” weather conditions for a while but once the calendar flips to September, boy, she’s all downhill from there. For summer lovers, that is.

            If the last long weekend of the hot season is summer’s last gasp…why is it called Labour Day? Funny you should ask…I was just wondering the same thing.

            According to my research Labour Day has been celebrated here in Canada on the first Monday of September since the late 1800’s. The origins of Labour Day can be traced back to December of 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work-week. At that time many workers were working at least twelve hours a day. The Toronto Trades Assembly called its twenty-seven unions to demonstrate in support of the Typographical Union who had been on strike since March 25th.

            George Brown, Canadian politician and editor of the Toronto Globe, hit back at his striking employees pressing police to charge the Typographical Union with “conspiracy”. Although the laws criminalizing union activity were outdated and had already been abolished in Great Britain, they were still on the books in Canada and police arrested twenty-four leaders of the Typographical Union.

Labour leaders decided to call another demonstration on September 3rd to protest the arrests. Seven unions marched in Ottawa prompting a promise by Canadian Prime Minister, and Brown’s political foe, Sir John A. MacDonald, to repeal the “barbarous” anti-union laws. Parliament passed the Trade Union Act the following June.

The parades in support of the printer’s strike became a yearly event. After attending one of these labour festivals in Toronto, United States labour leader, Peter J. McGuire went back to New York and established the first U.S. Labour Day on September 5th, 1882. It took a while, but in July of 1894 the Conservative government of Prime Minister Sir John Thompson officially made Labour Day a national holiday.

I am not promoting this column as a pro-union statement but, historically and factually, without the sacrifices of past union labourers and leaders there would be few workers’ rights today. So while you float around the pool or lounge on your cottage deck or take in the Labour Day Classic you could give a little silent thank you to the many people whose vision and sacrifices have made it possible for so many workers to enjoy weekends, (long and short), a standard 40-hour work week, overtime, coffee and lunch breaks, paid vacation, sick leave, minimum wage, maternity leave, Child Labour Laws, Occupational Health and Safety, Worker’s Compensation, pensions, wrongful termination laws…

“Without labour nothing prospers.”-Sophocles.

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