Learning about how working people organized and fought for justice in the workplace is thrilling to me, especially the ground-breakers, the pioneers, the courageous women and men who defied unjust law and immoral authority, who risked everything.
Those people are my heroes. I feel a kinship, a solidarity with these historical figures. I feel the chain of labour battles stretching out across the ages, the torch passed from their hands to ours.
Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong era. I dream of the time when workers would "down tools" and walk out, shutting the whole factory down. I dream of general strikes, of the IWW crossing class and colour lines, of the "mill girls" of Lowell and Laurence, Massachusetts (my all-time favourite moment of labour history) -- the radical edge of movement of risk and reward.
Of course I know those were brutal and dangerous times. Coming from working-class immigrant roots as I do, I would not have had a privileged life. But I know something about how alive those activists must have felt, how passion must have infused their lives with deep meaning. The power they must have felt, however briefly. The difference they made.
My own union, the BCGEU, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. These six short, beautifully made videos describe the history of our union. I'm proud to carry its tradition.
BCGEU100 Series #1: Neither Servant Nor Civil
A strong beginning, a dip and almost death... and renewal.
BCGEU100 Series #2: From Begging to Bargaining
Things get militant. The NDP forms the BC govt,
and provincial workers win collective bargaining rights.
BCGEU100 Series #3: Defending Public Services
How we fight for public services and public good.
Plus wildcat strikes and workplace takeovers! Be still my heart.
(But a general strike was called off... to great detriment.)
BCGEU100 Series #4: Growing the Union
The union adapts and changes as times demand.
It decides to continue to represent members who have been
driven into the private sector -- and by doing so, gains diversity and strength.
BCGEU100 Series #5: Diversity and Equity in our Union
Diversity, equity, representative leadership, and equal pay.
"We still have a long way to go, but each step forward makes us stronger."
BCGEU100 Series #6: Campaigning for Justice
How we fight for justice.
Unions do more than fight for members. When unions win, we all win.