The end of summer in so many ways and a last long weekend before we return to all of the normal work and school activities that cause us to run around like hamsters on a wheel.
Labour Day was much more meaningful for my father’s generation . This hamster has had a relatively soft life and although I worked at lumber mills and brick plants during my university years, after graduation work has had little physical aspect, although I once got a nasty blister from holding a pen. Quite simply, I have enjoyed privilege, and I am indebted to the generation that preceded me.
My fathers generation, born before the depression, had a very different view of Labour Day. After riding box cars during the depression working throughout western Canada wherever he could, he got a job in the early 40s as a nickel miner in Levack Ontario, where he laboured underground for 30 years.
When my father started his mining career, the wages were pitiful . The mine was 3000 feet deep (over 1 km). Each day my father would appear early in the morning get into a huge cage with several other workers and be lowered a couple thousand feet into the bowels of the earth. There he would drill blast and shovel. When he returned to surface, he was blackened with dirt, which would be resolved by being part of a huge gang shower, and he would come home clean, except what he brought home in his lungs. The next day he would return, put on the same dirty clothes, and be lowered into the earth again.
During that time, my father’s working conditions improved drastically. Not from the kindness of his multinational employer, but rather from the hard work, and occasional strike by his union.
The rate of mining accidents and deaths was very high in the 1950s. My father’s job was a difficult, dirty, and damaging (to his hearing￼) life. But he was a very hard worker, and often was the highest bonus earner of the hundreds of workers in that mine.
My fathers privilege was to work hard under difficult dirty circumstances, and risk his life every day at work, at the same time as being part of the union to improve those conditions for future workers. You can imagine that my fathers employment contributed heavily to his political views.
And that is labour. And that is why I know that Labour Day is more than a simple stat. It is to celebrate those that have worked and built our society, and those that have worked to establish the rights and wages that we have today. My fathers hard life funded my soft life. Oops, I think I’m getting a blister from my keyboard.
Posts copied from FaceBook.