Thousands march through Toronto in Labour Day festivities
Published Monday, September 3, 2012 12:10PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 3, 2012 7:06PM EDT
More than 25,000 workers from dozens of unions across Ontario marched through the streets of Toronto on Monday to mark the annual Labour Day festivity.
Demonstrators dressed in shirts adorned with union logos, waved placards and danced in circles as they filed along downtown streets, chanting slogans such as, “We won’t back down” and “no cuts.”
The event, themed “Unite Against Austerity”, was Toronto’s 141st Labour Day parade. Many participants used the opportunity to send a message directly to the provincial government, claiming the Liberals have openly attacked unions in recent weeks.
“Unions celebrate on Labour Day,” Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, told CTV Toronto on Monday. “We are also here to stand up and demonstrate. To say, ‘we will not allow governments of any stripe to take away our rights, and to fundamentally change the kind of communities we deserve.’”
The Ontario government has taken a hard line with public service workers in recent weeks, moving to freeze the salaries of doctors and teachers, and suggesting similar action could be taken in other areas of public service.
Thousands of Ontario teachers protested outside Queen’s Park last week over legislation that would eliminate the banking of sick days and removed teachers’ right to strike. Several teachers’ unions have threatened to take the government to court over the bill.
Parade organizer John Cartwright said the event was an opportunity to send the government a message about forcing austerity packages on workers.
"People are here to express their anger," Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, told The Canadian Press.
"The politicians are happy to give billions in corporate tax cuts and say to ordinary people, 'You have to tighten your belts' while the rich are getting richer every day."
Dozens of unions joined Monday’s massive march, including the Canadian Auto Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
Teachers, firefighters and paramedics were also represented in the parade. Groups from as far away as Denmark came to join the festivities.
Downtown roads were closed through the afternoon as flatbed trucks filled with chanting supporters followed rows of face-painted union members walking in tandem with their families.
Nick Cutrone, a member of UA46, which represents plumbers and welders, marched alongside his wife Mary, who said they come to the event every year.
“I know how much it means to him, so I want to support him on this day. We come every year,” said Mary.
Nick added, “The union represents our whole family. It is not only the individual. This is what it is all about.”