KAMLOOPS — The sun was shining on the hundreds of current and former union members gathered at McDonald Park to celebrate Labour Day at the Kamloops and District Labour Council’s 62nd annual Labour Day Picnic.
On hand were delegations from several significant unions including the United Steelworkers, the BC Government Employees Union, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association, to name just a few.
Many union members who were at the event spoke of the importance of belonging to a labour organization.
“One of the things the Labour movement has done has eased some of the income inequality in our community,” TRU Faculty Association President Tom Friedman explained. “Union members, as a rule, are doing much better financially and belonging to a union gives you not only a decent salary but also health and welfare benefits and a mention, in many cases.”
According to the Canadian Labour Congress, Friedman’s statement holds true. In 2014, there were 564,000 union members working in British Columbia which comprised about 30% of the province’s workforce. On average, those union members made around $5.39/hour more than their non-unionized counterparts.
Kamloops and District Labour Council President Barb Nederpel says while those improved wages and benefits union members receive are important for the workers, they could be viewed as an investment by employers in the community.
“What being in a union does is it ensures that we’re able to have a conversation with our employer,” Nederpel said. “So that we can find ways to meet in the middle, so that everyone is taken care of and we have fair wages and strong working environments, so [the employers] are able to make the profit they need for their success, as well.”
While being a member of a labour union offers significant benefits to its members, Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association President Amanda Jensen says there is still a great deal of work that needs to happen to help ensure a more prosperous life for those living in our community.
“We’re not done. There are so many things we’re still working towards,” Jensen said. “ A living minimum wage, for one. [Universal] child care is another one. So it’s really important that we continue to have those conversations because we aren’t done.”
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