Presented by Ken Georgetti on Saturday, 19 June 2010
(Check Against Delivery)
Sister and brothers, on this historic occasion when we gather to remember the brave workers of Ballantyne Pier, I am honoured to bring you greetings of solidarity from the 3.2 million members of the Canadian Labour Congress.
That the CLC today has 3.2 million members is part of the legacy of the longshore workers who stood up to oppression to fight for democratic labour rights seventy-five years ago on Ballantyne Pier.
The Battle of Ballantyne Pier in Vancouver was not an isolated incident – it was part of a national and indeed international movement to gain recognition and respect for unions.
The lockout of Vancouver workers in 1935 followed – as many here know – the 1934 Longshore strikes in San Francisco, Seattle and other ports where workers were killed and injured in large numbers.
In Vancouver, maritime employers locked out longshore workers and hired scabs to take their place.
The workers peacefully marching to Ballantyne Pier to protest the use of scabs were led by James “Mickey” O’Rourke – the second-most decorated veteran in Canada – a man awarded more wartime medals than anyone but flying ace Billy Bishop.
The fact that police still attacked workers – including the first use of tear gas in Canada – is a sad truth of history.
And although brute force against unarmed workers may have won that battle, dedicated longshoremen won that war, eventually establishing ILWU Local 500 as an independent, democratic, worker-controlled union.
Today, sisters and brothers, we must remember the Ballantyne Pier workers who came before us – for they made all of our working lives better through their sacrifices.
We must continue the brave struggles they started, never giving up hope for a brighter tomorrow.
And let me say unmistakably on this 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Ballantyne Pier, that the CLC and its affiliated unions will never rest until we have anti-scab legislation right across Canada!
No worker should ever have their job stolen by a scab!
Thank you for being here in solidarity with labour’s past heroes and with commitment to fighting today for all workers, everywhere.