Happy Birthday to us! The CLC is celebrating 60 years of working for fairness

April 23, 2016

Saturday, April 23, 2016 marks 60 years since the creation of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1956.

Workers had been organizing for better working conditions through unions for decades, but the time had come for a single, nation-wide labour organization to help unions work together around common goals.

Here are some highlights of how in each decade since the CLC and its member unions have improved the day-to-day lives of not just union members, but all Canadians and people around the world.

1960s – Retirement security through the Canada Pension Plan

The CLC was a key player in the campaign that finally won the establishment of the Canada Pension Plan in 1965. This meant all working Canadians, regardless of their income, how many times they changed jobs or how many places they worked in Canada, had predictable and secure retirement savings. Today we continue to advocate for the universal expansion of the CPP, so that fewer seniors are forced to struggle in retirement.

1970s – Fairness through maternity leave

By the late 1970’s more than 60 per cent of women aged 20 to 30 had joined the workforce. Many turned to their unions to help make maternity leave more accessible. In 1979, Quebec’s Common Front, representing government, education and health workers, won 20 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, ten weeks when parents adopted, and five days of paternity leave. A 42-day strike by postal workers won 17 weeks paid maternity leave in 1981. Those victories soon led to longer periods of paid maternity leave – through employment insurance – for all working mothers.

1980s – International solidarity for South Africa

Canadian trade unions have a long tradition of organizing to fight injustice around the world. In the 1970s and 80s, thousands of Canadian trade unionists took part in anti-apartheid actions in their workplaces and their communities to pressure the Canadian government to take action against South Africa. In 1994 a CLC delegation was sent to observe South Africa’s first multi-racial elections.

1990s – Fairness for gay and lesbian workers

For years workers filed grievances to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the 1990s, unions and labour federations built on the victories won through these grievances, moving from Labour Board arbitrations to Human Rights Tribunals to provincial courts to the Supreme Court of Canada. That meant their wins extended to more Canadians, and that more and more contracts included human rights and equity language, and same-sex benefits.

2000’s – Protection for vulnerable workers

The CLC and its member unions led the fight for the Wage Earners Protection Program Act, which, when it came into effect in 2008, helped ensure that when employers went bankrupt, their workers would still get the pay and benefits they were owed. The need for that program continues to grow, especially in a climate where precarious work is on the rise, leaving more and more workers vulnerable. The CLC continues to advocate for its expansion.

2010s – Support for grappling with domestic violence at work

Research shows that one in three workers has experienced domestic violence and that this violence follows them to work. Since 2013, the CLC has led an initiative to address the impact of domestic violence in the workplace. We’ve developed a resource centre that includes tools and resources for union leaders, representatives and members to help build awareness, break the silence and improve workplace safety for everyone. This helps them negotiate workplace solutions like paid leaves, safety planning and women’s advocate programs.