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Multiple rallies and marches were held in cities all around Canada on May 1st to commemorate International Workers' Day. Inflation, stagnant wages, labour conflicts and more were on the minds of protesters. North Star attended many of these rallies to hear what they had to say.
In Montreal, several thousand people marched through the streets of Verdun to commemorate International Workers' Day. The central issue of the march was inflation, which is affecting workers across the country. Among the unions present at the march, special mention was made during the speeches to the workers currently in a labour dispute, notably at the SQDC and the Notre-Dame-Des-Neiges Cemetery.
When asked about his opinion on how worker's struggles in Quebec have been covered in main stream media, Luc Bisson, president of CUPE Montreal, had this to say:
"The media is glued to the employers, respectfully. These people are there to make a show. They don't know the reality of workers. They have always been either involved in politics or in business."
In Gatineau, a large group of major unions and community organizations also demonstrated. Speeches were mainly about inflation, government interference, privatization and workers' democracy. The atmosphere was festive but militant given the many strikes in the region this year.
International Worker's Day in Quebec also marked the day that the minimum wage increased a dollar from $14.25 to $15.25, an increase that David Clément, representative of the SQDC worker's union, isn't very impressed with:
"We have a Minister of Labour who is proud to have raised the minimum wage to $15.25. When was the last time he lived on $15.25 and wasn't able to pay for his groceries, wasn't able to pay his rent, and had to say "Damn, I can't make this work."
In spite of overcast and rain, gatherings were held in multiple Ontario cities, including Toronto, London, Guelph, and Hamilton.
"Labour in this province last year for the first time ever reclaimed May 1st as International Workers' Day, and we started to have celebrations right across the province last year. And this year again, workers are rising, claiming back the day." says Janice Folk-Dawson, vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.
International Workers' Day in Ontario held a sombre note this year, as it was recently revealed that since the start of the year, one worker a week been killed on the job in the province. Dawson told North Star "The right to refuse unsafe safe, is just one of the tools workers have to make sure that they go home at the end of the day."
The Vancouver rally gathered around 150 activists and workers in front of Town Hall, a location chosen to protest the new City Council scrapping living wage guidelines for Civic employees.
One speaker highlighted the impacts of the drug toxicity crisis in BC on working class people, with more than 10,000 deaths from overdose since 2016, over 50% were people in construction and trades.
Stephen von Sychowski, Vancouver & District Labour Committee president says that it's not all bad news this May Day. "There is some good news today in both Canada and the United States. We're seeing increased support for unions, increased organizing here in B.C... Joining a union is much easier than before, and more workers are taking advantage of that. Baristas, retail workers, janitors and many more are signing union cards and preparing to collectively bargain for a fairer deal with their employer."