August 2016 – OCS VIEWPOINT – We Should Never Take Labour Day for Granted


Labour Day.  What does it mean to you?  Is it about going back to school?  Is it the end of summer?

Labour Day should be – and really has always been – a time to celebrate what many Canadians take for granted: the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, benefits, safe workplaces, the weekend and yes, (paid) holidays.  These advances may never have come about had it not been for a group of Toronto printers, who in 1872, went on strike for a shorter work week and to support their Hamilton counterparts, who were lobbying for a 9-hour work day.

The provincial government of the day (like most governments in North America), brought in scab labour and even took legal action by having strike leaders charged and arrested for criminal conspiracy.

Canada’s Prime Minister however, saw it differently.  John A. MacDonald and his Government passed the Trade Union Act which decriminalized unions, and strike leaders were released from jail.

The strike and resulting legislation finally recognized the contribution of labour to our society.  A parade was organized to support the strikers and it carried over into an annual celebration of workers’ rights in cities across Canada.

In Ontario, Toronto and Hamilton have staged Labour Day parades continuously since 1872.

In the early years, these celebrations were catching the interest of labour leaders south of the border.  One such leader – Peter J. McGuire – attended a festival in Toronto in 1882 and inspired, he returned to New York and organized the first American “Labor Day” on September 5th of the same year.

Throughout the 1880’s pressure began to build in Canada to have Labour Day declared a national holiday. Prime Minister John Thompson realized the broad public support for this and declared Labour Day a national holiday in 1894.  Since then, the first Monday in September has always been recognized as Labour Day.

This Labour Day, I hope that you will enjoy the long weekend.  Perhaps you’ll head to the cottage, enjoy one of the many fall fairs that are held at this time of year, or perhaps you’ll take in a parade or enjoy a barbeque or picnic in your backyard.  I hope you have a wonderful time.

If your household is anything like mine, this holiday weekend is mostly about getting ready to send the kids back to school.

Admidst  the “busyness”  of the Labour Day weekend, please remember the sacrifices made by our ancestors that helped ensure the standard of living that we enjoy today. We can all be thankful for the courage of those printers in 1872.


Sean W. Strickland
Chief Executive Officer,







Fred Lehmann
Communications Coordinator,

Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS)
180 Attwell Drive, Suite 360, Toronto, ON M9W 6A9
P 416.620.5210 ext. 222
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