A tour through the 'garment jungle'
It was known as the rag trade: a vibrant "patchwork" of textile shops in downtown Montreal and Toronto in the 1930s. But as the Depression wore on, clothing manufacturers began to exploit workers in what were already deplorable conditions. Female immigrants sweated in dimly lit factories, working up to 70 hours a week. A large group of textile workers decided to speak out. Their courage helped improve conditions in post-Second World War garment shops, until the introduction of free trade and a recession decades later.
• In the 1960s and '70s, Canada's labour force grew more than any industrialized country, according to the Canadian Oxford Encyclopedia.
• For about 20 years between 1965 to 1985, Canada and Italy were tied for having the highest global averages of general workers lost to labour disputes.
• Canada's numbers of persons lost to labour disputes peaked in 1976, setting an all-time national record.
• Violent and illegal labour disputes also increased after 1960 in Ontario and Quebec. The Encyclopedia compares this era in union history to the 1930s era of turbulent management-union relations.
• In 1985, 90 per cent of Canadian textile workers were immigrant women.
Program: Cross Section
Broadcast Date: Jan. 29, 1959
Reporter: Allan Anderson
Last updated: May 8, 2013
Page consulted on January 17, 2014
All Clips from this Topic
Conditions have improved for workers in Canada's garment districts, th...
Grace Hartman, Canada's first female union leader, addresses women's w...
Union leader talks to Barbara Frum about implications of knitting fact...
Managers refuse to remove surveillance cameras at a Toronto knitting f...
Union victorious as arbitrator rules cameras to be taken down from wor...
Women of the schmatte recall appalling pre-union conditions.
Madeleine Parent organizes a 6,000-strong walkout.
Management says 9,000-person strike will paralyze an already-weakened ...
The garment industry goes underground.
Cheap Mexican labour means layoffs for workers at Bovie Manufacturing.
Union pioneer Léa Roback praises textile workers for walking out durin...
An underground garment worker has her contract cut off.
It was known as the rag trade: a vibrant "patchwork" of textile shops ...