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30 to 40,000 workers and their families will march in Toronto today for the 130th Labor Day parade, which is a day of public celebration for all workers. Between 29 and 33% of workforce is unionized in Canada, compared to less than 15% in US. Among them will be thousands of Canadian Union of Public Employees members. CUPE is the largest union in Canada, with 500,000 employees, and 180,000 members in Ontario. It is a public sector union that covers municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals. The Canadian labor movement looks extremely strong compared to the US, but leaders say that the Canadian labor movement has a lot of work to do, especially under the new conservative government of Prime Minister Jean Cretien. CUPE members say in fact it is time for the Canadian labor movement to adopt some of the policies of the AFL-CIO—and go out and organize new workers. The leadership of CUPE publicly espouses connecting social issues to the bargaining table. Almost 50,000 union members marched in Quebec City to say that globalization is a local issue and that union members do care about its effects. Inside CUPE, some members have are working to connect the global struggle to the local one, and to create a grassroots movement that leaders have to respond to. Many are wearing gas masks and bandannas at today’s celebratory parade as a symbolic gesture to highlight the fight against corporate globalization. They hope to call for a general strike of all workers across the province to highlight the repressive anti-union policies of Prime Minister Jean Cretien, as well as a push toward corporatization and a growing anti-union sentiment in the province of Ontario.


- SID RYAN, general vice president for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and president of Ontario branch of CUPE, and vice president of the Ontario Federation of Labor.

- OONA PADGHAM Oona Padgham (Pad-Jum), a Canadian Union of Public Employees member and spokesperson for the Committee for a General Strike.

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