Father’s Day is an upbeat holiday, but its origins lie in a tragic labour incident. In 1907, a mining accident in West Virginia killed hundreds of men, 250 of whom were fathers.
A local pastor decided to use the occasion to honour all fathers – and the celebration of fatherhood spread quickly throughout North America. However, it was not till 1966 that US President Johnson proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day – the same day we observe in Canada.
It is highly fitting that we honour our fathers, and the list of reasons for recognizing them is long and varied, according to the dad of the day. But as a trade union, OPSEU underscores their contributions to labour, and particularly to the dignity of labour.
In times past, labour has been regarded as a curse, or at least as beneath the dignity of certain social strata. But for the fathers who went into the mines or toiled in superheated factories to provide for their families, labour was a source of great pride and a badge of honour.
On-the-job tragedies, like the one in West Virginia, were one reason workers organized themselves into unions, and their demands for safer working conditions, for fairness and respect grew.
Following the two world wars, as women entered the workforce in significant numbers, the labour movement became even more resilient and influential – an unstoppable force that would shape the very fabric of society.
Today, as we remember fathers’ contributions to labour, we recognize their ongoing role in the union movement, which strives to create safer, fairer, more inclusive workplaces and communities for families and individuals alike.
To all the fathers in OPSEU – and to all those who play father-like roles in whatever capacity – we wish a very happy and healthy Father’s Day.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, First Vice-President/Treasurer