Role of unions honoured by Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel

AFL vows to continue fight for rights as attacks on workers continue

The City of Edmonton today paid tribute to contributions union members have made to the city and province with a ceremony at City Hall.

"If one would look back a hundred years, one would be just appalled at the condition you worked in and the environment people worked in," said His Worship Mayor Stephen Mandel as he proclaimed this week to be "Alberta Federation of Labour Centennial Celebration Week" in Edmonton. He paid tribute to the "tremendous efforts and sacrifices" made by members of the labour movement to create the "rights and freedoms that are so important today, things we take for granted."

President Gil McGowan said the AFL was delighted that the City of Edmonton had agreed to honour the contribution of workers by making the proclamation as the federation, which represents 145,000 workers, celebrates its centennial.

"It's important for us to remember the contributions that workers and unions have made to this province in the last 100 years – and the obstacles they overcame and the attacks they endured. Unions have led the fight for fair wages, safe workplaces and an end to discrimination on the basis of race, creed, gender and orientation," he said.

"Unions have been instrumental in creating a strong working class and middle class, where people get a fair wage for their hard work and are able to provide homes for their families and give their children a good education."

However, McGowan stressed the work of unions was not finished, with workers' rights under attack across the country. "The struggle continues as we see moves to drive down wages under the federal government's Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program, to restrict Employment Insurance (EI) payments to laid-off workers and to keep people in the workplace until the age of 67 under proposed changes to Old Age Security (OAS) rules," he said.

"If the Harper government continues down this path, all workers will be worse off, our communities will be worse off as their economies shrink in line with falling wages, and local businesses will be worse off as people stop spending. The only winners will be Harper's big-business backers," said McGowan.

"The Harper government is hell-bent on attacking unions in the same way he is going after charities and environmental groups. Anyone who speaks up, anyone who argues against Tory ideology, has become a target. They will be met with vigorous resistance. We've been here for 100 years – and we're not going away now, when people need us."


CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888

Photo: AFL president Gil McGowan, left, receives a framed proclamation and congratulations from His Worship Mayor Stephen Mandel at Edmonton City Hall on Monday, June 11

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