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Labour Day in Halifax: Songs, speeches and solidarity

by Robert Devet

Close to 500 people attended Halifax Labour Day celebrations and marched through downtown. Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Your Halifax Media reporter at work, fair and balanced reporting is his motto. Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Solidari-Glee.Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Lisa Mason, a home care worker and president of the South Shore Labour Council. Photo Simon de Vet
Sam Krawec, barista at Coburg Coffee.  Photo Simon de Vet
Trish MacDonald, registered nurse and proud NSGEU member in Halifax. Photo Simon de Vet
Melanie MacKenzie, mail carrier and proud CUPW member. Photo Simon de Vet.
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Canadian Labour Congress Executive Vice-President Marie Clarke Walker. Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet
Photo Simon de Vet

K'JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX -  For some people Labour Day just spells the end of summer. But for the nearly 500 union members and their friends who gathered at Victoria Park and marched to the Commons it means a lot more.

For those people the labour day gathering is an opportunity to reflect on the past year and get ready for another year of activism. And to sing some songs, chant slogans, and have a lot of fun, for that matter.

Prior to the march union members told the crowd about their experiences in the trenches.

"Bill 30 took away the right to strike from home support workers, "Lisa Mason, a home care worker and president of the South Shore Labour Council, told the crowd. "We deserve better."

Home support workers help people who are elderly or not well to stay in their homes," Mason explained. "Home support work is difficult work, with high injury rates and long hours. Many of us have long hours and no set schedules."

"We organized to have a voice in our workplace," said barista Sam Krawec. Krawec is one of the people behind the Coburg Coffee unionization effort.

"In an anti-union letter sent out to our employees the boss wrote that we received competitive wages and benefits for this industry," he said.

"But all the union supporters receive minimum wage and no benefits..."

"I don't know if she knew that," said Krawec, who also mentioned having to face a workplace culture that allows comments degrading to women and homophobic jokes.

Trish MacDonald is one of the Registered Nurses who battled the liberal government this spring, first for additional nurses and safer hospitals for patients, and then to stop the anti-strike legislation that premier McNeil imposed.

Many nurses walked out in a wildcat action just prior to Bill 37 being proclaimed, and most received two-day suspensions without pay as a result.

"Still a good majority of those have not yet served their suspension because of the ongoing staffing issues," MacDonald told the crowd to laughter.

"Today I deliver your mail to your door, that's my job and I love it," said Melanie MacKenzie, the final speaker before the march.

"But in a year or so I don't know if I wil be in the unemployment line, or if I will be working, what I am going to do," she said.

"Mail delivery is so important in our community, and the damage that this will do is heartbreaking."

Once the speeches were over, people marched to the Commons, led by a dockyard firetruck. At the Commons there were further speeches, songs by solidari-glee, a barbecue, booths and a bouncy castle for the kids and the young at heart.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

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