Workers Centre campaign helps draw important links
The canary has long been a powerful symbol of hazardous workplace conditions. In days of old, miners often carried canaries into coal mines. Birds that died were a startling warning of toxic gases below. A generation ago, it was also birds, or the absence of their song, that prompted Rachel Carson to write Silent Spring.
Her groundbreaking book was one of the first to document devastation of our natural environment through industrial activity and widespread pesticide use.
Some argue that workers have become the canaries of our communities. At the close of this century occupational diseases and cancer in particular have reached alarming rates. Outside the workplace, much of this suffering is also being linked to industrial activity.
For these reasons the canary figures prominently in the Workers Centre fourth annual volunteer recognition campaign, entitled, Making Connections: One World, One Voice
. The Centre commissioned original artwork for a poster and accompanying decal which portrays a canary, the helping hands of workplace and community activists and our connection to each other and the world in which we live.
At Workers Centre/labour council volunteer appreciation events being held across the province this fall, all who attend will receive a mounted copy of the poster plus extra decals to distribute to co-workers and family.
Working with member organizations, the Centre will further distribute the poster and decal next spring to senior elementary and high school students. The campaign will attempt to make connections of its own, linking health, safety and environmental issues to existing events centred around Earth Day, Day of Mourning and Cancer Awareness Month.
Clarence MacPherson, executive director for the Workers Health and Safety Centre, explains, “Concerns for our health and the health of our environment are drawing people together as never before. We’re proud to help support increasing awareness of these issues.” MacPherson points to the recent convergence of health and safety and environmental movements and how with combined resources and a shared vision activists are creating occupational disease and cancer prevention coalitions and campaigns. “Together, we can summon the kind of courage it will take to confront the popular victim-blaming mythology that lifestyle choices and bad genes are largely responsible for the all too real tragedies working people are experiencing. We must stay true to our experiences and speak with one voice. Together, we can form a chorus that can’t be ignored.”