Message from the President: Labour Day 2020

Publish date: Friday, September 04, 2020

COVID-19

MNU members

MNU President

Dear members,

Labour Day officially celebrates the achievements of workers and the labour movement. This year it feels particularly poignant. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on the many frontline and essential services we rely on every day. We’ve seen the public show strong support for nurses and other frontline health care professionals, and I know we all appreciate that. But we’ve also seen that support extended to grocery, retail, transportation, and countless other sectors that rarely get the attention they deserve. It’s apparent that our labour, and that of so many others, keeps Manitoba going. We truly are all in this together.

The pandemic has also illustrated the continued need for advocacy. We have fought many battles over the past six months – advocating for our patients, for stronger health and safety measures and accommodations, for your rights on the frontlines, and for the right to bargain collectively, freely and fairly.

While our advocacy will continue heading into the fall, I also want to take a moment to reflect on how far we have come as nurses in this province with a few historical snapshots:

  • In 1936, collective action by Selkirk nurses achieved one day’s rest in seven.
  • In 1957 Virden nurses went on strike for better wages. They were fired. They were making $90 a month for a 90-hour workweek.
  • In 1975, MONA was formed, and wages went from $3.87 per hour to $12.48 plus benefits within a number of years.

Since our union’s founding in 1975 we have come much further, negotiating countless provisions and benefits to support nurses and their patients through successive rounds of collective bargaining. You can learn more about our history here.

There is a misguided sentiment held by some that suggests unions are antiquated, and no longer relevant in today’s society, or that unions have made the progress necessary to write themselves out of existence.

This is nonsense.

Historically, it is only through collective action that we have been able to accomplish great things – from improved wages and benefits to the all-important health and safety provisions we’re relying upon and defending today more than ever. It’s through union organization that we have been able to push back against the misguided attacks on health care that we’ve seen from the Pallister government since it was elected in 2016.

As we live through this present, ongoing and concerning public health crisis, let us remember how far we have come, why union engagement is so important now more than ever, and why we must continue to work through the broader union movement to defend and uphold the rights of nurses and all working people, in Manitoba and throughout Canada.

Nurses have a strong voice, and special role in advocacy. When we work together, we are a powerful force.

In Solidarity,

Darlene Jackson
MNU President

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