By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – Lamoureux Park was filled with energy as union representatives and the Cornwall & District Labour Council raised funds for leukemia research on a day celebrating Canada’s heroic working class.
© Adam Brazeau
Labour Council president Elaine MacDonald and union affiliates gathered at Lamoureux Park to celebrate Labour Day, raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and demand minimum wage be raised from $10.25/hr to $14/hr.
Labour Council president Elaine MacDonald rallied with the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada Locals 173 & 633, to discuss the advancements over the late nineteenth century in the workplace with hundreds of families and spectators.
“We do this every year on Labour Day to recognize all the great gains the labour movement has brought over the years,” said MacDonald.
She cited the five-day week, an eight-hour day, the weekend, sick leave, maternity leave, pensions and compensation for workplace injuries.
“Some of the gains we’ve made have stalled,” she said. “Minimum wage has not gone up in Ontario for three years.”
Minimum wage has been frozen at $10.25/hr since 2010.
MacDonald said that means a minimum wage worker, working 35 hours a week, if they’re able to find that amount of work, as many are forced to hold down two jobs, are still coming up short.
“If they work full time, they’re still 10 per cent below the poverty line,” she said. “This party is also a call to action to everybody to start pressuring the government to raise the minimum wage to $14.00/hr. That will raise the wage to slightly above the poverty level.”
The labour council president noted that the price of gas has gone up 24 per cent and groceries are up over 15 per cent since the last wage increase.
UFCW director Dan Lacroix agreed with MacDonald.
“We’re worried where the government is heading with workers’ rights,” said Lacroix. “No doubt minimum wage is an issue where people are falling behind.”
He had another cause that was on his mind and it was bringing out the generous side of the audience.
The UFCW was raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, going towards research and treatment. Last year they raised $5,000.
“Everyone has been affected by leukemia in one way or another,” said Lacroix.
One of the 500 union members signed up for the ‘Walk for Lukemia’ portion of the event lost his son at 17 to the disease.
UFCW represents workers in Cornwall and area in stores and factories such as Food Basics, Ridgewood and Olymel.
“A lot of people think that the labour movement was wonderful in the past,” said MacDonald. “Well, the fact is, as long as we have a minimum wage that leaves people in poverty, having to make a choice between paying the rent or buying their groceries, it’s clear there’s a need for a labour movement in 2013.”