This Labour Day, Let’s Salute All the Front-Line Workers Who Helped Us Survive Thru this Pandemic

A Commentary from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

Posted on Labour Day, September 5th, 2022 on Niagara At Large

Suffice to say that this past two and a half years of wave after wave of one variant after a more virulent other of COVID-19 has taken a hell of a toll on all of us.

In Niagara alone, COVID has also, since the pandemic began, claimed more than 600 lives, leaving a hole in the hearts of their loved ones.

And whether we want to face it or not (and I am putting it this way because it appears that there remain many among us who are acting as if it is over), there continues to be new COVID cases and there continue to be deaths-  especially among those who still refuse to get vaccinated in the name of whatever god or cult leader they bow their knees to.

Meanwhile, back here on Planet Earth, this Monday, September 5th is Labour Day, a time set aside to pay homage to everyday workers rather than the rich and famous for a change.

This year at least some of that homage should be paid to front-line workers who made it possible for us to struggle our way through this pandemic with some of the most basic services we needed to survive and have at least some semblance of a normal life.

First and foremost, I think of all those front-line grocery store workers who were there from the start, when there were no vaccines to protect us from the most lethal impacts of COVID, stocking those shelves and checking us out so that we could go on having food on our tables.

In the earliest days of the COVID pandemic, people were lining up at grocery stores like this one Niagara, while the staff inside helped get us the food we all needed to survive. There was little or no appreciation from the grocery workers’ corporate masters, who were engorging themselves on record profits. file photo by Doug Draper

I think of those frontline grocery workers in big-chain grocery stores like Loblaws’ ‘Super Stores’and Zhers,, many of whom work at or near a minimum wage in Ontario that falls below a livable income, who received a ‘COVID bonus’ of an extra two dollars an hour at the beginning of the pandemic, yet had that bonus cancelled on them by their corporate masters as the spring and summer of 2020 set in, and even though there was still no vaccine and the risk to their health was as code red as ever.

I still say shame on the super-rich Weston family in Canada and others like them for cancelling these bonus, and for simply not granting their workers a livable wage, while they have continued gorging themselves on record-high profits. And shame on our cowardly governments, who closed down their offices during this pandemic, for not calling these greedy people out.

We should also pay tribute to so many more, including those who continued to collect our curbside wastes and recyclables, those who delivered our mail and the front-line sorting workers and couriers who delivered us packages, the bus and taxi drivers, those who kept our water and wastewater plants operating, and the list goes on and on.

And of course, I am not forgetting the front-line nurses and other health-care workers who burned themselves out putting in the long hours, and taking the abuse from anti-vaccine fanatics, even while Ontario’s Ford government – a government vowing to spend multi-billions of dollars on new highways – moved to cap any annual wage increase for them at one per cent.

These are among the working  people we should pay tribute to on this Labour Day.

  • Doug Draper, Niagara At Large

I leave you with a statement circulated this Labour Day  by former federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent

“Today is Labour Day.

“It is the unofficial end of summer and a cherished long weekend for some – and for many others, a time to celebrate the hard-fought wins of the labour movement and steel ourselves for the work still yet to come.

Former federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent

“This year we saw workers from all sorts of industries fight for their rights, for fair treatment, and for decent work. We saw Starbucks, Amazon, and gig workers stand up for themselves, and we saw education workers and health care workers lead the way in telling those in power what workers need and where they are falling short. In Ontario, where I live, we saw Bill 124 become a ballot box issue during the provincial election campaign. 

“We have only to look at our struggling health care system to see the value of workers and the need for collective organizing. Although public health care is regularly talked about as a bedrock of Canadian society and untouchable politically, there are currently two fights simultaneously occurring that would undermine the system we boast of so proudly. 

“In British Columbia, the Cambie case continues to make its way through the courts, extending the looming threat of giving preferential access to higher-paying individuals or private insurance.

“In Ontario, the Ford government continues to crack the door wider toward allowing for-profit health care. Thankfully, the labour movement continues to fight to protect <https://ofl.ca/tag/bill-124/> and preserve <https://canadianlabour.ca/canadas-unions-welcome-todays-b-c-courts-decision-in-cambie-case/> our health care system.

We must stand with these workers and with the labour movement to fight for a better future for all. As we mark another Labour Day we are called to remember the great things we have achieved together. Let’s also remember that our ability to improve our country is limited only by our imagination.

In solidarity, Ed Broadbent. Founder, the Broadbent Institute

NIAGARA AT LARGE Encourages You To Join The Conversation By Sharing Your Views On This Post In The Space Following The Bernie Sanders Quote Below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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