By Kevin Werner, News Staff
A little rain did come down on the 2013 Hamilton and District Labour Day parade, but it hardly slowed down the thousands of union members, bands and vehicles as they made their way through the city’s downtown core to Dundurn Park.
While the number of spectators lining Main and Bay streets, and York Boulevard may have been down from previous years because of the poor weather, the sun eventually shined on the marchers, and their sentiments reverberated along the streets.
The parade began sharp at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 2 under dark skies, and steady showers. But as the police guided the participants along Bay Street, the rain let up.
The United Steelworkers, which recently voted to end a lockout at theLake Erieworks that has been going on since April, were at the front of the parade, followed soon after by the teachers’ unions which last year at this time were facing a labour disruption prompted by the provincial Liberals.
The parade also highlighted the newest union organization Unifor, where the members stood out in their bright red t-shirts. Unifor, which held their first convention in Toronto over the weekend and will boast 300,000 members, was formed from the Canadian Auto workers and Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions. They elected Jerry Dias as their first president with about 87 per cent of the vote.
The Hamilton and District Labour Council praised the teachers and public sectors workers for fighting against the province’s Bill 115, while also supporting the locked out workers at Max Aicher North America and the steelworkers.
Mayor Bob Bratina, wearing a red Unifor shirt as he spoke to the gathering at the park, praised the teachers, and the steelworkers, for their hard work, andHamilton’s Canadian Union of Public Employees for helping the city meet its financial targets this year.
“You helped us provide for the proper level of taxation,” said Bratina.
He also once again backed the city’s commitment for a living wage for all workers. He said the more money people make, they quickly re-invest it into the community, benefiting the entire city.
Other politicians who turned out for the event included Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller, Hamilton Mountain NDP MPP Monique Taylor, and city councillors Scott Duvall, Brian McHattie, and Tom Jackson.
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Wayne Marston said the need for a higher minimum wage remains as strong as ever in Canada. While Ontario’s minimum wage is frozen at $10.25, there are calls from poverty groups demanding it be raised immediately to $14 an hour. Marston pointed out Australia’s minimum wage is $16.95;France’s minimum wage is $12.68, while New Zealand’s is $11.18. This past weekend fast food workers in the United State surged a jump in their minimum wages from $7.25.
Marston said there is a tide turning in Canada among the public that projects Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political career is at an end. He said Brian Mulroney wore out his welcome over time. But Marston says Harper’s appeal has ebbed further than Mulroney’s. Even though the NDP won 103 seats in the last election, they finished second in 122 other ridings. So there is more than just optimism that the next election will produce an NDP government, he said.
“Harper is on the way out,” he said.