The 'job ghetto' of women's work
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.
• Hartman admitted to also being passive when she started out in the workforce. She first became interested in unions while working for the North York municipality as a secretarial clerk. Hartman became a member of the North York union and started attending meetings.
• In 1954, Hartman was voted in as president of her local CUPE union.
• When Hartman was elected head of CUPE in 1975, she became the first-ever female president of a Canadian union.
• Hartman believed trade unionism was the best form of organization for female workers. Also in the Sun article, she said trade unions often won in collective bargaining, which she thought was "the best mechanism for bringing about social and economic change."
• Hartman wanted to help women advance in the workforce. She said most women in 1975 worked out of necessity rather than because they were in the career of their choice.
• Hartman was also quite practical about women's issues. She thought it was more important for women to have access to free daycare than to win token advances in the workforce.
• In 1981 Hartman served a 45-day jail sentence for refusing to obey a Supreme Court of Canada back-to-work order.
• Hartman died in 1994 at the age of 75.
• With 294,633 members (1983), CUPE was Canada's largest union in Hartman's day.
• In 2004 CUPE was still Canada's largest union with more than 500,000 public service employees, such as teachers, nurses and airline workers.
Program: Take 30
Broadcast Date: Dec. 22, 1976
Guest(s): Grace Hartman
Host: Mary Lou Finlay
Last updated: February 24, 2012
Page consulted on December 5, 2013
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 ...