Management Fights Back
Management was determined to keep the store open at all costs and so
willing to cross the picket lines were offered a 20-per-cent discount. An
50 000 bargain-seekers shopped at Dupuis on the second day of the strike.
ads were placed in the Star and in La Presse.
labour-saving, shopping was introduced. It set, according to Dupuis, a new
in retailing among department stores.
Self-serve was all well and good, but Dupuis still needed a minimum
of clerks on the job each and every day. Striking employees were
telephone to come to work. University students at the École des
Études Commericales were recruited on a part-time basis. The
advertised for store clerks over the store loudspeaker during opening
Each Side Taunts the Other
It was difficult to pick a winner early in the strike. The union made
difficult, if not embarrassing, for workers and customers to enter the
A young woman was arrested for haranguing and spitting on passersby, who
presumably trying to enter the store. Two adolescents were arrested for
stickers in favour of the strike. Walls and windows in the area were
with hundreds of the stickers.
Both sides appealed to the public in the mass media. On day three of
May 4, Gérard Picard, the president of the CTCC, appeared on the
giving his version of events. Newspaper columns were replete with press
and statements giving the management and the union sides of the story.
were used by both sides to float rumours that could hurt the other:
were agitating on the picket line. The company was offering $20 to workers
returned to their jobs. Dupuis was preparing to sell out to American
Taunting Turns to Violence
police direct the traffic of strikers from their horses.
Until May 9, the company was relatively successful in attracting
to the store with its discount policy. However, this changed as
exchanges took an aggressive turn.
A young union agitator named Michel Chartrand hit upon the strategy of
loose some white mice in the women's lingerie section. As the mice
to run about the store to the sound of exploding firecrackers, pandemonium
Order was restored with difficulty.
Company detectives and police, detained and, in some cases, roughed up
on the scene. One had to promise he would voluntarily turn over his photo
Another had his notebooks confiscated, was escorted to the door, and
"Leave and don't come back." The following day, a group
strikers again managed to get inside the store where they paraded and
slogans. One demonstrator was hit on the neck. Women who witnessed the
began to scream and the police had to intervene.
Outside on the picket line, matters heated up when a garage foreman
Frères attempted to run down strikers with a car and later attacked
with a chain. On May 14, strikers got into the store again where they
bees and frogs. Nine arrests were made. Two days later, the first stink
were set off inside. A melee broke out at the main entrance involving
detectives, and police. Strikers refused to back off and a woman broke out
Later that same day, a crowd gathered outside at 10:30 p.m. to try to
the departure of personnel after the store closed down. They threw stones
the buses that arrived to pick up Dupuis employees. Two hundred police
hand, some on horseback. Traffic backed up on St. Catherine Street and a
of curious onlookers gathered to witness the events. These gatherings
regular evening occurrences. The crowd was still in the street in early
when arrests were made on both sides of the picket line.
On May 19, police authorities informed the press that they recognized a
of communists in the crowd outside the store. The next day, the company
a communiqué expressing its concern about the presence of
the lawyers and journalists working with the CTCC. A few days later, the
of the CTCC accused Dupuis of using Soviet methods in its handling of the
Red-baiting was integral to the communication strategy on both sides of
line. The cold war was in full swing.
Fighting in the Courts
sign says, "Our strike is legal."
The wrestling match eventually moved to the courts. On May 14, the
distributing a pamphlet, "Pourquoi nous sommes en
we are on strike]. The next day, Dupuis Frères filed suit for an
against the CTCC affiliate that had published the pamphlet. The pamphlet,
alleged, was both libellous and defamatory. Dupuis took particular
to the assertion that prices has been marked up by 20 per cent prior to
of the special 20 per cent discount shortly after the outbreak of the
A second court injunction was sought a few days later. The union was
for its campaign of slander and libel. Individual agitators were singled
and the company sought to outlaw further intimidation, disorder, verbal
and demonstrations. The injunction specifically mentions damage to
and intimidation near the front entrance at the comptoir postal
This was an indication that the strike was affecting the mail-order
as well. If, by this injunction, Dupuis was trying to dissolve the
strategy of encirclement, there was an implicit recognition that the
were having an effect.
The court ruled temporarily in favour of the company, but eventually
that the union's methods were within the limits of the law. With
proceedings in full swing, the union worked to broaden the base of popular
Support Arrives from the Union Movement
In May, the Transport Drivers Union, the Trades and Labour Congress of
the Quebec Federation of Labour, and the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway
all weighed in on the side of the strikers. The Montreal Central Council
CTCC asked sympathetic municipal councillors to enquire into the incidence
police brutality. The CTCC even approached the president of the National
Association to dissuade star athlete Joe Louis from making a scheduled
appearance inside the Dupuis store. Louis never did show up.
On May 30, a mass meeting was held at the Palais de Commerce. A
support from Eaton's employees union in Toronto was read out.
Picard, CTCC president, promised the strike would go on until victory was
Jean Marchand told the 5000 in attendance that the large merchants of 1952
conducting themselves as if they were feudal seigneurs exploiting their
Speakers encouraged the crowd to continue boycotting Dupuis Frères.
The Conflict Accelerates
finest on their mounts outside the Dupuis store.
Between June 10 and July 21, the strike entered its third phase.
between police, strikers, and management degenerated. A Dupuis truck was
On June 11, a store window was broken, a melee broke out, and a force of
officers was brought in. Thirteen arrests were made the evening of the
the picketers smashed a store window and rained firecrackers on the
employees boarding the buses that were to take them home. The police even
arrests when picketers began to sing and chant too loudly.
On June 16, two large store windows were shattered. Four days later,
more windows were smashed. Two arrests were made among the picketers for
the peace. A man trotted down St. Catherine Street on his horse to the
of all, offering a provocative parody of Montreal's mounted police.
grève c'est la guerre," [The strike is war] commented
Picard, not inaccurately, in La Presse.
Another mass meeting was held on June 19. Liberal MPP Dave Rochon
a continuation of the boycott against Dupuis. City councillor Lucien
exclaimed that never before had there been such an era of liberty and
of expression in Montréal.
Strike momentum burst back onto the streets during the St. Jean
parade on June 24. Close to a million spectators attended the parade,
Dupuis strikers. A group of 20 women filed past the Archbishop of
and told him, "The strikers of Dupuis Frères honour you,
Other groups of strikers were less polite. Mayor Camilien Houde was pelted
In Quebec labour strife, the summer of 1952 was a hot one. There were
strikes going on at the time. The provincial government was under pressure
may have persuaded Dupuis to return to the bargaining table, which it did.
continued until July 2, when again a stalemate ensued. The report in the
put it thus: "The company said it was unable to give an increase or
pay. They did not offer a cent. And that settled that. They put on their
and walked out."
Small crowd of strikers and
sympathizers at the corner of St. Catherine and Parthenais Streets. Food
and cola were available at Louis' restaurant. The tavern next door also
provided victuals. The union ran a canteen nearby on a shoestring budget
of $50 a day for some 900 strikers.
Dupuis Decides to Negotiate
A few days later, on July 8, Raymond Dupuis received a letter from a
in the industrial relations firm of Hurteau and Desmarais. Hurteau advised
to be more flexible with the strikers, to show more, rather than less,
of spirit. Dupuis was reminded that a recent strike at National Breweries
in a hollow victory for the management; following the close of the strike
which the union was defeated, the company experienced a drop-off in
and sales. Dupuis could expect the same negative attitude from its
Furthermore, Dupuis had to strike a deal that was acceptable to the union
After the strike was over, Hurteau believed Dupuis could overhaul the
structure of communication within the company. Management and the union
then learn how to get along with one another once again.
The Strike Ends
Something or someone had to give and this is precisely what happened
20 when Dupuis made changes to top personnel. Roland Chagnon was fired and
Boucher, a popular man with the staff, was given back his old job. A new
agreement was worked out with the union within a few days.
The strike was officially ended at an assembly of 900 strikers on
July 26. The assembly warmly received Raymond Dupuis who stated,
so many weeks of sorrowful separation, the house of Dupuis would be most
to welcome you back Monday morning."
Smiling faces all around,
heralding the return to work of the Dupuis Frères strikers. Note the
large number of women workers. Below, a solid and satisfied handshake
featuring union president Gérard Picard on the left and Raymond
Dupuis (the owner) on the right.
The strike was over, the hatchets were buried. The union and management
no longer at war. Dupuis employees could return to work. The store and the
enterprise of Dupuis Frères could again devote itself fully to the
of its French-Canadian customer base. And, meanwhile, the rest of French
could go about the business of quietly transforming its view of the world
the shape of things to come.
Union family album, souvenir
of the Dupuis strike. Most of the strike organizers, either from the
union local or from the permanent union staff, appear in this
Daily newspapers such as Le Devoir, The Montreal Star, La
are a good source on the strike. The union (CTCC) paper, Le
is also useful. Information can also be found in the archives of the
des syndicats nationaux in Montréal and in the Dupuis Frères
of the Archives of the Hautes Études Commerciales.
Rouillard, Jacques. "Major Changes in the
des Travailleurs Catholiques du Canada, 1940-1960." In
since 1945, edited by M. D. Behiels, pp. 111-132. Toronto: Copp
Sauriol, Marguerite. "La grève de 1952."
72 (Winter 2003): 95.
Syndicat national des employés du commerce de Montréal
"Pourquoi ils sont engrève? Un document sur les relations
à la Maison Dupuis Frères Ltée."
Syndicat national des employés de commerce de Montréal,
Vadebonceur, Pierre. "Dupuis Frères, 1952." In
L'histoire de la CSN et des luttes menées par ses militants de 1937
1963. Montréal: Les Éditions du Jour, 1963.