Unifor President Jerry Dias on giving thanks for what is possible

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Image: wikimedia commons

On Monday, like millions of Canadians, I will sit down with my family to our annual Thanksgiving feast.

We’ll carve the turkey, pass the potatoes, tell stories and catch up on what’s been going on in each other’s lives. And we’ll reflect on the good things we have, giving thanks for them as we’ve done for many times on the first Monday in October.

Things like a good home and a family to share it with, and the ability to provide for that family and to help our children pursue the opportunities in their lives.

I’m also thankful for having been a member of a union which made all that possible. Having been a union member since I was 20 years old, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a middle class life. As a union activist, I’ve been able to help others do the same.

By next Thanksgiving, I’d like more Canadians to be having a similar experience as they gather with their families for Thanksgiving.

But for this year, too many families are struggling in low-paying and precarious jobs that make it difficult -- if not impossible -- to provide a decent standard of living for their loved ones.

Take the difficulties facing a particular group of building cleaners in Vancouver right now. Already struggling to raise their families on $12.65 an hour in one of Canada’s most expensive cities, 150 of them stand to lose their jobs by the end of this month to a contractor paying as little as $10.50 an hour as the jobs are outsourced to a lower bidder

That’s 150 families thrown into crisis for a savings of just pennies per square foot of building cleaned. What kind of work will they find now, in a market with this kind of competitive pressure? What kind of life will they lead, and what kind of hope can they offer their children?

Canada needs to do better, and it can.

A week ago, Unifor helped mark the World Day for Decent Work, announcing it would convene a multi-stakeholder Good Jobs Summit to start a serious conversation about creating and sustaining decent work.

We need elected officials to help chart a path towards a good jobs future. But let’s not fool ourselves. Such a summit won’t be the solution we need -- it will be a start.

It took many years for Canada to fall to such a state where the best we seem to offer our young people is precarious jobs and an uncertain future. It will take hard work to dig ourselves out again.

Which is why we need to get to work right away.

We’ve learned over the years to lower our expectations. To expect less from our corporate leaders in terms of job opportunities or jobs with any kind of a real future like past generations have had. To expect less of governments when we need help in difficult times.

I think it’s time we start raising our expectations, and to believe that we can create jobs that pay fair wages, are safe and stable.

That’s why, if the federal government won’t lead the way, Unifor will. Last Monday, Unifor recommitted to holding a Good Jobs Summit within the year to start turning things around in this country. We want to build positive momentum and rekindle a belief in this country that we are capable of working together to create the kind of society we want for our children – one with jobs and opportunities on which they can establish a life for themselves.

Next year, I intend to be giving thanks for building towards that.

Jerry Dias is the National President of Unifor, formed Labour Day weekend by the merger of the CAW with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union of Canada, and is Canada’s largest union in the private sector with 300,00 members.

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.