100 years of organizing

The Alberta Federation of Labour celebrates 100 years

Sat, Jun 16 - AFL Celebration in the Park
Fort Edmonton Park, $5

On June 14 in 1912 the Alberta Federation of Labour held its founding convention. One hundred years later the City of Edmonton marked the contribution of the AFL to the community by proclaiming the week "Alberta Federation of Labour Centennial Celebration Week." As part of a year-long celebration of labour history, President of the AFL Gil McGowan and Mayor Mandel took the opportunity to speak publicly about not only the historical role of unions, but the importance of the labour movement in the political context of 2012.

"If we think back 100 years we would be appalled by the environment in which we worked and the strides. It's a great credit to the commitment to the members who worked so hard for so many years to achieve the rights and freedoms we have today, things we take for granted," said Mandel in delivering the proclamation.

When the AFL first came together, miners and tradespeople in southern Alberta campaigned first against child labour and an improvement in the coal mines which were some of the most deadly in the world. But Mandel also looked to today's reality in the need for labour movements.
"Many in Alberta are working very hard to make ends meet and so we have to work hard to make progress for those Albertans," he said.

Currently, the AFL represents over 145 000 workers today and campaigns for improved working conditions for groups such as temporary foreign workers. Made up of 29 unions across the province, the AFL has won historical campaigns against provincial right-to-work legislation and participated in the coalition against private health care reforms in the mid-90s.

"It is important to celebrate 100 years of contributions," said Amarjeet Sohi, city councillor for Ward 12. "The more we celebrate the more we understand the role unions play in our lives."
Before becoming a councillor Sohi was a bus driver and president of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Celebrating the AFL this week means more to him than history, marking the contributions that labour groups make to the community. "It enhances community spirit and well being so it's important to recognize those contributions," says Sohi. "I see the value they bring not just to the work site but to the community in the form of better wages and in turn people's quality of life, which helps the economy. So it's a cycle and the role labour plays in our lives is part of that interconnection."

Vue Weekly,Wedn, June 13, 2012

Byline: Samantha Power

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