Toronto – April 30, 2014 – Every year, workers and their unions around the world observe International Workers Day, also known as May Day, on the first day of May. As our nation’s leading union, UFCW Canada celebrates May Day this year, uniting our members across Canada with our sisters and brothers around the globe, from Bangladesh to Mexico to Guatemala.
Recently, UFCW Canada joined thousands of garment workers and trade unionists in Dhaka in a demonstration marking the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, which killed 1,135 workers and injured thousands more when their factory collapsed. Our union is in the forefront of successfully pressuring more than 160 apparel companies, including Loblaw, to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. For the first time ever in Bangladesh – which is the second largest garment producing nation in the world – workers have the legal framework to conduct health and safety inspections of their factories and the ability to ensure their recommendations are implemented. This is the most significant step the global labour movement has taken to prevent another tragedy like Rana Plaza from occurring.
Another recent victory for international solidarity is our landmark case against the Mexican government for blacklisting agricultural workers who exercise their right to unionize. The Labour Board in British Colombia found the Mexican consulate guilty of punishing and discriminating against agricultural workers who voiced their support for joining UFCW Canada Local 1518. The case has rocked the houses of government in both Mexico and BC, where our members are demanding that the fundamental right to organize be protected by our elected officials.
As Canada’s most progressive union, our pivotal struggle for the rights and dignity of agricultural workers continues to expand even further. In April, we created a cooperative structure with officials in Guatemala to better protect agricultural workers arriving in Canada. This program will take significant steps towards reducing the potential for fraudulent recruitment schemes and exploitation of migrant workers. With over 250,000 members of UFCW Canada and more than 13,000 members of the Agriculture Workers Association, we continue to lead the fight for workers in virtually every sector of the global economy and for migrant workers in particular.
The best way to achieve fairness at work and social justice in society is to join the union. Our victories internationally and here at home are testament to the fact that when workers join hands together across borders, we can overcome injustices perpetrated by even the largest governments and corporations. On this May Day 2014, UFCW Canada celebrates with our members, our allies and every worker around the world who needs a union.
Paul R. Meinema