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Ontario's Union for fairness, equality and respect at work.

Maria (center) with friends, family and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh at Toronto Labour Day celebrations.

For the last 20 years, Maria Cabral, who works at Maple Leaf Poultry has attended Labour Day with family, friends and co-workers.

“It’s a day for working people to come together and raise their voice about the issues that affect our lives,” said Cabral. “I always tell everyone, 'It’s very important for us to show up and make sure our concerns are heard.'" 

Over the years, Cabral became more involved in the union, inspired and encouraged by Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Benn, her union rep at the time. Cabral has served on her Joint Health and Safety Committee, as a member of the Women’s Issues Network, and now as Vice-President on 1006A’s Executive Board. 

Activism has become a way of life for Cabral, who always talks about the union movement and workers’ issues with everyone from co-workers to neighbours. 

“I believe the change comes from us –that is my belief,” Cabral said. “If we don’t do it, nobody is going to do it for us. Our country is made of the people.” 

This year, Cabral says she is particularly concerned about the Ontario government neglecting the issues of working people. She is concerned about the government not taking the appropriate measures as children return to schools, with large class sizes. 

“It will be our grandchildren who will be suffering,” she said. “These kids need to be safe at school and the Education Minister has to help them."

While she will miss marching down the parade route this year, she will celebrating Labour Day with her family. 

"For me, union is everything,” Cabral said. “Because of the union, you feel like you have support, you are confident and you have somebody to help you." She hopes future generations take up the torch passed on by current and past activists. 

“The union fought for progress and rights at work, the companies did not just give it to them,” she said. “I will tell young people, 'It’s important for us to continue the fight and to trust the union – it’s a movement that lifts people up.'"

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