Happy Labour Day

FireworksIn Canada, Labour Day often signifies the end of summer and the dawn of a new academic school year. Since it is a statutory holiday held on the first Monday every September, many people take the opportunity to spend extended time with family or friends not realizing the true significance of, or reason for, recognizing this day.

The day is actually intended to be celebrated in recognition of trade unions’ efforts to improve the rights of workers in Canada. On April 15, 1872, Canada’s first major demonstration for workers’ rights was organized by the Toronto Trades Assembly to demand the release of the 24 leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union. These leaders had been imprisoned for striking (a criminal activity at the time as trade unions were illegal) in an effort to demand nine-hour work days. Even though trade unions were illegal, the Toronto Trades Assembly had become a substantial organization involved in supporting workers to form trades unions, mediating in disputes between workers and employers, and identifying abuse of workers. This and other demonstrations combined with strong public support eventually led to the repeal of Canadian laws against trade unions and the establishment of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1883. Although originally celebrated in the spring, Labour Day in Canada was moved to the fall after 1894.

The rights of workers significantly contributes to their health and well-being, and it is for this reason that Labour Day warrants recognition.