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A Labour Day to Remember

A message from AUPE President Guy Smith

Sep 03, 2021

Headshot of AUPE President Guy Smith
AUPE President Guy Smith

This past year has pushed everyday Albertans through the meat grinder. And while I’d normally say it’s time to heal the wounds and trauma that we all endured, we must also learn from the hard lessons forced on us.

So, this Labour Day, I’m asking working people to study the scars. To recall the details of the wounds. And to commit every bruise, bash, and welt to muscle memory so you never forget your value that is so callously disregarded by your bosses and politicians. They’re masters at conveniently “forgetting” the critical work you do. And since it’s clear the pandemic has not changed their manipulative, power-mongering ways, it’s more crucial than ever that we remind each other of our own worth.

For years, bosses and governments have been asking you to make unconscionable sacrifices for their self-serving agendas. They’ve demanded wage rollbacks, threatened your pensions, sold your towns to private corporations and forced you to work full-time hours with part-time protections.

And for years, you fought back, amplifying each other’s voices, never shying away from a chance to speak your solidarity.

But when the province was in trouble, you didn’t think twice. You dropped the megaphone to follow another resounding call – the one that drives you to serve your neighbours and deliver the critical services we all depend on regardless of the risks.

In continuing-care homes, you walked into the inferno, going where the need was highest. In hospitals, you resumed your usual stations but prepared for anything – endless overtime, redeployments, and unpaid isolation – despite the looming layoffs. In courtrooms, you shouldered mounting caseloads. In social services, you bravely faced domestic crises. In education, you adapted to shifting COVID restrictions, and in multiple boards and agencies, you prepared to support a surge of stressed clients – Albertans desperate for legal aid, affordable housing, mortgage deferrals and more. The list goes on.

You did all of this. And your bravery continues to earn you the endless gratitude of everyday Albertans. But it did not earn you the gratitude of your bosses. Where they could have shown humility, compassion, understanding and support by giving you the resources and respect you’ve always deserved, they exploited the pandemic.

They exploited your kindness, your compassion, your dedication and attacked your rights, your jobs, your pay and your working conditions when you were most vulnerable.

Before COVID-19, some of you might have been gaslighted into believing you deserved concessions and compromises. But I don’t think any one of you is doubting what you deserve anymore after the things you endured this year: on one side, a virus causing immense loss and grief, and on the other, a government pulverizing your working conditions.

You know this already – the scars are your proof. I don’t need to remind you. But I will use this Labour Day to reinforce that your compassion has never been a weakness. It’s your greatest strength – the source of your grit and fortitude. So this year, let’s turn that endless compassion inwards. Let’s acknowledge, strengthen, and celebrate our own self-respect as workers. Let’s draw on the strength and solidarity we shared during the pandemic, so we can keep standing up and fighting back for ourselves, our families and our communities.

On this Labour Day, and well into the future, let’s remember all that we have confronted. And let's show bosses and governments that with the full force of a united Alberta working class – with our strength, tenacity and compassion – we can overcome anything.

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