PROFILE PHOTO COURTESY OF KIMBERLEY KUFAAS PHOTOGRAPHY Tyson’s Thoughts is a column posted online at northislandgazette.com and in print the following Wednesday. Have some thoughts about my thoughts? Email editor@northislandgazette.com

OPINION: Labour Day exists for a reason, and it should be celebrated

Labour Day is a way to remember and recognize all of the admirable folk who fought for worker rights

Labour Day is a holiday that seems to be shrouded in a bit of a fog these days.

What do I mean by that bold statement, you might be wondering? Well, all you have to do is google “the history behind Labour Day” and you will get a sharp and biting reminder of why we actually celebrate the holiday.

For those who don’t know, Labour Day came about as a way to remember and recognize all of the admirable folk who fought for workers’ rights and benefits around a century ago. That’s definitely ancient history now, but I feel it’s worth reminding people that workers’ rights still need to be protected in this day and age.

Look no further than the recent eight-month long logging strike that decimated Vancouver Island.

It was one of the biggest stories I’ve ever had to cover in my five years of being a journalist, and it had so many twists and turns along the road that it was actually pretty tough to stay on top of every week.

For those who don’t know about the strike, here’s some basic details behind it.

Approximately 1,500 of Western Forest Products (WFP) hourly employees and 1,500 employees working for the company’s timberlands operators and contractors in B.C. went on strike July 1 after 98.8 per cent voted in favour of strike action when the two sides couldn’t negotiate an agreement to replace the five-year one that had expired mid-June.

The United Steelworkers union (USW) said its members started the job action because the company had not seriously addressed union proposals and continued to keep “massive concessions” on the bargaining table as both sides tried to negotiate a new collective agreement.

Over the next eight months, the union stood firm on the line and refused to budge against WFP. In my opinion, and that’s what this column is, my opinion, the union plain and simple didn’t want to back down and concede to a company that had been reeling in massive profits off the backs of their workers.

It was very admirable that they managed to hold out as long as they did. The union really believed in what they were fighting for, with USW President Brian Butler stating firmly there were “no concessions” made by the union once an agreement was finally reached.

WFP also seemed pleased that the agreement had been struck. And while it was definitely a tough eight months for the families who were caught in the middle, in the end, both sides made amends and got back to work.

With that said, please go ahead and enjoy the extra day off. While labour resumes the following day, it’s still very important to remember the history behind why the long weekend exists.

I know I’ll be thinking about it.

Tyson Whitney is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Port Hardy. His family has lived in Port Hardy for more than 40 years.

He graduated with a degree in writing from Vancouver Island University in 2008. Email: editor@northislandgazette.com

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The USW went on strike for nearly eight months in a battle against Western Forest Products. (Campbell River Mirror photo)

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