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An Open Letter to IFPTE Members Commemorating Labour Day 2018

In the last speech he ever gave on April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned Memphis’ striking sanitation workers that, “we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right-to-work,’…Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone.” Seven years prior—on December 11, 1961—Dr. King addressed the AFL-CIO, saying that, “By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.”

As IFPTE’s diverse membership in Canada and United States commemorates Labor Day this year, it is important now more than ever to remember this rich labor history that Dr. King spoke about. After all, we are witnessing a race to the bottom unlike any in recent history. We have a Trump Administration, a Congress, and a politicized Supreme Court that sides with wealthy corporations over workers at every opportunity. We have a government in Ontario that rode the wave of divisiveness and anti-worker rhetoric to power and is now pursuing an agenda to hand over public services to big money corporate interests. And, we have a campaign finance system in place that has left us with far too many politicians who care more about the agendas of their corporate donors than they do about the livelihoods of the very constituents that they represent.

Despite all of this, something interesting is happening. Workers are standing up. Workers are organizing. Workers are fighting. And, workers are winning. Labor Day 2018 is about celebrating workers proactively pushing back against the attacks being levied against us.

In early August, workers in Missouri went to the polls and overwhelmingly rejected business backed efforts to bring ‘right-to-work for less’ laws to that State. In June, workers in Ontario rallied at Queen’s Park demanding that the Ford Government respect unions, a $15 per hour minimum wage, and workers’ rights. Last week, IFPTE federal sector members experienced a huge victory when a federal Judge upheld a lawsuit filed by a coalition of thirteen unions (including IFPTE) challenging three Executive Orders issued by President Trump aimed at ending unions and creating an at-will federal workplace. Workers across North America are also organizing at levels that we have not seen in years, including IFPTE Locals from Washington, DC (Local 70) to the Bay Area (Locals 20 and 21). And, well before the Supreme Court’s union- busting Janus decision was announced, IFPTE public sector Locals from New Jersey to California were increasing their membership numbers to ensure that five corporate backed Justices would not determine the fate of their unions.

While our IFPTE family, and everyone within the broader labor movement, continues to face challenges, we are also buoyed by the solidarity and grassroots movements that are occurring across the United States and Canada. We are inspired that today’s working people have not forgotten the history of the labor movement that Dr. King celebrated. So, on this Labor Day, as we celebrate with our union Sisters and Brothers, families and friends, and our fellow citizens, we will also keep fighting, keep organizing, and keep winning.

Happy Labor Day.

In Solidarity,

Paul Shearon

Matthew Biggs
Secretary-Treasurer/Legislative Director


8/28/2018 - This Week in Labour History: Labour Day - A Holiday Born in Canada (Canadian Labour Congress)

August 2018 - See the AFL-CIO summer ad campaign currently running commercials on MSNBC, FOX News and CNN

An Open Letter to IFPTE Members Commemorating Labour Day 2018

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