Sunday saw an early celebration of Labour Day by the Moncton & District Labour Council with a jovial community gathering underscored by a barbecue. This picnic was a nod of recognition and appreciation to the irreplaceable role of workers in the community.
Stephen Drost, in his capacity as the president of the CUPE New Brunswick, was vocal in his acknowledgment of workers’ contribution. “Without our workers, this province would be at a standstill,” he explained, “Their efforts deserve unequivocal recognition.”
The event was a gala affair, complete with games, food, and noteworthy commendations. Prime among them was the Owen MacLennan Trade Unionist of the Year award. This annual honor was bestowed on George Leaman, a recognized figure who has championed significant contributions to the labour movement.
Leaman retold his memorable experiences with Owen, whom he worked alongside until retirement. Acknowledging the award’s significance, he shared, “it’s a big deal to receive this award from the Federation of Labour.” He further highlighted his four-decade-long active involvement in the Trades Union, including his tenure as vice president for the Federation of Labour and a local business agent.
While the event emphasis was on unity and camaraderie, it also facilitated important dialogues. Drost was candid about the challenges faced by families in recent years. He reassured their efforts to continually advocate for improved working conditions, job site safety, and better wages.
Drost further mentioned several ongoing negotiations with CUPE’s unions to secure beneficial collective agreements. He stressed the importance of collective action, stating, “By standing together, every challenge becomes surmountable.”
The Canadian Labour Congress regional representative, Serge Landry, spoke about the annual celebration of Labour Day as a means to uplift everyone. He stressed that by raising the standards of the less fortunate, everyone would ultimately benefit.
Adding his thoughts, Landry unequivocally stated, “New Brunswickers have fundamentally supported our growth. In recognition of this fact, we are determined to not take backward steps.” His agenda includes multiple advocacy concerns such as EI reform and pharma care, with an emphasis on fair share for workers.
ACORN New Brunswick also participated in the event, conducting a Housing Standard Survey. This effort aims to address housing issues, a subject often highlighted with ‘horror stories,’ according to ACORN N.B. Co-Chair Peter Jongeneelen. The survey seeks to compile data to take proactive measures against pressing housing issues, hoping to present its findings to the provincial government when the legislature resumes in October.
Jongeneelen raised concerns about the rising rents and the subpar maintenance efforts. Despite these challenges, he remains hopeful about the potential for change through collective effort, citing the successful implementation of a one-year rent control for 2022 following a similar survey.
In the spirit of unity and shared objectives, the event hosted several vendors. Landry reiterated the underlying goal of fostering a society where a decent living standard is within reach for everyone.
The event concluded with an echoed understanding among officials that unity is key to any positive change in the province. As Leaman resonantly put it, “United we stand, divided we fall,” summarising the sentiment that solidarity, more than just a word, is a way of life.