​May Day 2017: Manitoban USGE members rally at legislature in support of workers

Monday, May 1, marked May Day, an international day celebrating workers’ rights. 

Around 200 Winnipeggers marched and rallied on Monday at an annual event to celebrate the working class.

Starting at 6 p.m., supporters marched to the Manitoba Legislature as part of May Day, an international event each May 1 in support of workers’ rights. This year’s event was hosted by the Winnipeg Labour Council and Mayworks.

“I think it’s really important that we celebrate labour,” said Frank Janz, a member of the Union of Solicitor General Employees with the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“I think labour’s contributed to the benefits and the wellbeing of our country, and we’ve brought a lot of benefits to the people. I mean, shorter work weeks, safety, health and safety, maternity leave, vacation leave — these are all things that were brought on by the unions.”

New policies under Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government have left some unions and members feeling “attacked,” Janz said.

“I think certainly with the government that we have today, they’re not very labour-friendly in the province and people are starting to stand up for their rights,” he said. “They want to be counted.”

The Facebook flyer for the event featured an image of Premier Brian Pallister holding a chainsaw and asked participants to “Say no to the agenda of austerity, privatization and cuts to jobs and social spending.”

Bob Gowenlock has been going to May Day demonstrations in Winnipeg for three or four decades, he said, give or take the odd year. 

“May Day is celebrated right through the world, outside of North America, as labour day, as opposed to the September long weekend,” he said. “It’s something that I think is worthwhile so I’m glad to come out and support it.”

Gowenlock said he’d hoped to see more people.

“I can see why unions come out, because right now they feel they’re under attack by the provincial government, and so this is one way to show they don’t want to be treated this way,” Gowenlock said.

“And other people can come out and say, ‘Yeah, we’re with you.'”