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United Way Blog

Celebrating Beyond Borders: Labor Day in Canada and the United States

Labor Day, a tribute to the contributions and achievements of workers, testifies to the unity, strength, and transformative power of collective action. Its significance reaches beyond national boundaries, recognizing the efforts of American and Canadian labor forces, each contributing to the strength and prosperity of their nations.

Historically, the development of labor unions in the United States and Canada has paralleled each other, with workers on both sides of the border uniting to advocate for fair wages, safe working conditions, and protecting workers' rights. From the Pullman Strike in the U.S. in the late 19th century, to the Winnipeg General Strike in Canada in the early 20th century, labor movements have played a crucial role in shaping societal norms and policies around labor rights. Their shared histories and shared goals remind us that workers everywhere face similar challenges and triumphs.

Period poverty is one such challenge. In Canada, an astonishing 34% of women and girls make budget sacrifices to afford essential menstrual products, leading to period poverty. But it's not just Canada. Period poverty is also an issue in the United States, affecting millions of women, girls, non-binary people, and trans folks. It is a reality that forces people to choose between necessities like food and menstrual products, creating societal stigma that can lead to isolation.

Canada’s United Ways period poverty initiatives partner with local labor unions and communities. Through empowering initiatives such as "Tampon Tuesday," and "Period Promise," they distributed hundreds of thousands of menstrual products to those in need and influenced policy changes at all levels of government. 

Since 2017, this initiative has distributed over 3 million menstrual products across Canada, reducing stigma, and providing much-needed resources to community organizations dependent on public donations.

The unifying power of caring for each other that defines Labor Day celebrations also inspires UWC's efforts to fight period poverty. Labor Day symbolizes collective action and advocacy. It is about solidarity and the belief that everyone deserves access to basic needs.

South of Canada’s border, United Way of Metro Chicago (UWMC) is partnering with labor unions to address a challenge of a different kind. Access to paid training opportunities mitigates financial barriers to professional success since job applicants are more likely to complete their training programs if they are rightfully compensated. HIRE360 is a workforce development and small business support program, designed to expand on the success of its forerunner Access United. The 2017 partnership with the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Construction Industry Service Corporation, and the Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council, served as a centralized point for sharing information from labor unions on apprenticeship programs and application timelines with community partners. Now, HIRE360 provides prospective job applicants with job training, guidance, and financial assistance. The program also invests financial and mentoring resources to support minority and women-owned businesses across Chicago. Hire360 also prioritizes creating opportunities for women and people of color. Like UWBC, UWMC’s labor partnerships are increasing access to basic needs, good careers, and equitable communities. United Way’s mission to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to health, education and financial stability must go beyond borders. 

This Labor Day, let us celebrate the Labor Movement and workers. The United Way is proud to partner with them on the transformative initiatives that have changed so many lives. The power of unity can achieve extraordinary things. Let's unite in solidarity for the causes affecting millions of people across our borders.

Happy Labor Day, everyone!