Happy Labour Day to all the more than 100,000 CUPE members in B.C.! I hope this important day gives you the opportunity to spend some time with your families and friends—subject to pandemic restrictions, of course—and to reflect on the contributions working people have made by forming unions and fighting for a better world for all.
This is the second Labour Day during this pandemic. We won’t be able to come together at big picnics or barbeques. For me, part of what has always made Labour Day celebrations so special has been to see the coming together of workers from so many different backgrounds. And while I’ll miss that terribly this Labour Day, I have hope that by next year COVID-19 will be mostly in the rearview mirror. As we work together to end the pandemic, we also need to work together to ensure that we build back in ways that make our communities stronger and more sustainable.
Of course, the current federal election gives us an important opportunity to have our say about what kind of leadership we want for our country. While I don’t want to make this column about partisan politics, readers likely know which leader and party I support. I hope you will join me in supporting progressive candidates who support strengthening—not weakening—the public services that ensure our communities are for everyone, not just the wealthiest.
We had much work to do before this pandemic to make our communities, our province, and our country fair and just for everyone. It’s unconscionable, for example, that there are communities in this country without access to drinking water. Income inequality continues to grow, as the 1 percent amasses more wealth at the expense of the rest of us. There is much more work to be done to eradicate racism in our social and political systems and structures. And, we are facing a climate crisis that demands action and resolve from leaders and citizens alike.
These are no small challenges, and there are no quick fixes, but our society will not thrive if any of them are left unaddressed.
One way to build greater equity in our economy is to increase the availability of quality affordable child care. That’s why one of our top priorities for the fall and beyond is building support for the mass expansion of $10 a Day child care in communities across the province. The pandemic has really exposed the inequities in access to quality, affordable child care, and also demonstrated that our public schools can provide the child care B.C. needs. The new seamless day pilot projects in more than 20 school districts across B.C., which bring before and after-school child care into public schools, shows us a great, cost-effective way to make child care spaces more accessible with enhanced learning for kids. The facilities are already built, the programs can integrate with daytime learning, and we already have many of the trained people ready to get to work.
So as we work together over the coming months and years, let’s try to remember the spirit we all felt a year ago, when we made a point of thanking the frontline workers who have gotten us through the pandemic. Let’s remember the spirit and solidarity of the workers and union members who made so many sacrifices to make things better not just for themselves but for everyone.
Happy Labour Day.
Karen Ranalletta is President of CUPE BC, elected in 2021. CUPE BC is the largest union in British Columbia, representing more than 100,000 workers delivering important public services in nearly every community in the province.