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Canadian Labour Congress is born

The Story

Since the late 19th century, the Canadian workforce has been represented by two unique and divergent groups. The Trades and Labour Congress of Canada advocated for the rights of the skilled trades while the unskilled workers found their support in the Canadian Congress of Labour. But at a convention on May 1, 1956, in a bid of solidarity and empowerment the two labour unions merged to form the million-member Canadian Labour Congress. As seen in this CBC report, while some delegates expressed concern, the vote for union was unanimous.

Medium: Television
Program: Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: Dec. 30, 1956
Guest(s): Claude Jodoin
Reporter: Blair Fraser
Duration: 2:12

Did You know?

• The first president of the CLC was Claude Jodoin who, upon his election at the convention stated, "we are doing our best to make democracy work for Canada..." In 2006, the man who holds the top position at the Congress is Ken Georgetti. Two other noted past presidents are Bob White (1992 to 1999) who founded the Canadian Auto Workers and Shirley Carr (1986 to 1992), the first woman to head the CLC.

• In 1955, just one year before the merger of the two Canadian labour groups, Americans had witnessed the amalgamation of the AFL-CIO. Many critics felt that the founding of the CLC was simply a mirroring of the US action. But according to analysts of the Canadian labour movement, the decision in Canada had actually been in the works for a long time.

• One of the most significant debates at the May 1 convention concerned a resolution on political action. The question was whether the CLC wanted to align itself with political groups. The resolution passed but there has always been conflict in the labour movement over this issue of political involvement.

• Some feel the vision of the American trade union, which is not ideologically based, is a better route to follow than the British-inspired direct political action. But the latter has usually won out with strong support often going to the major social democratic parties.

• May 1, also known as May Day, is often associated with the commemoration of the social and economic achievements of the labour movements throughout the world.
• The day was chosen to commemorate the death of workers in Chicago's Haymarket riot of 1886.

• As of 2006, the Canadian Labour Congress, headquartered in Ottawa, boasts three million members from across the labour force of Canada. The organization is continuously growing, most recently with teachers, nurses and the building trades. With a strong commitment to social welfare programs and governmental regulation of the economy, the movement remains supportive of political parties with a social democratic agenda.



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