Why is labour important?
Many people don’t realize that the labour movement is responsible for the rights and protections under labour laws that exist today. From the 8 hour work day, to health and safety and even child labour laws, you can thank the effort of a union! The labour movement in North America began as a response to the changes of industrialization. Unions understood that although the owners of capital, the factories and land, were profiting the most, it was the workers making the majority of products and wealth through their work. The reason the bosses were able to make off so handsomely was because of the surplus value they could exploit from the workers' labour after the cost of materials. This surplus value can still be seen today in the stratification of wealth in all industries.
Ask yourself: “Does a CEO work 10x, 100x, or 300x more than someone physically serving customers and manufacturing products?”
“Why does their pay reflect this?”
As time has progressed the difference between the lowest paid worker and highest paid CEO has ballooned, and not in favour of the average worker. In fact, if it weren’t for minimum standards now entrenched in the law, companies would attempt to pay workers less.
In many cases through loopholes such as migrant labour programs, and free trade, companies pay even less than standard minimum wages required by law in Canada, whether on Canadian soil or abroad. Yet these companies still claim Canadian values of fairness, equality and justice while exploiting workers for as much profit as they can get out of them while paying those at the top much more than what is necessary for an enriched living standard.
The labour movement has been important in changing attitudes towards sexism, diversity and ableism in the workplace. Those workers who belong to a union make more money on average and have more protections in the workplace. When unions are found in underrepresented communities, these communities experience and economic benefit and social uplift.
Propaganda over the years has tried to disempower workers from asking critical questions about their workplace and taking an active role. And yet we cannot forget our history, without the labour movement we wouldn’t be where we are today!
There still is work to be done and we encourage you to learn more about the history of the labour movement in Canada and empower yourself to organize your workplace.