ivisions that had split the
mainstream labour movement into the Canadian Congress of
Labour (CCL) and the Trades and Labor Congress (TLC) began
to recede during World War II. First, wartime conditions
brought the TLC and CCL together in campaigns to lobby
governments on labour issues. On the thorny question of
industrial unionism, the TLC softened its position. Some
of its own unions were adopting the industrial model,
often because of fierce competition with CCL affiliates.
By the early 1950s, this costly and divisive raiding of
one another's affiliated unions forced union leaders to
search for a compromise. In 1953, a unity committee composed
of CCL and TLC leaders started negotiations. Similar
discussions were occurring in the US where an agreement was
reached to merge the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and
Committee for Industrial Organizing (CIO) to form AFL-CIO.
In March 1955, negotiators in Canada announced a similar decision.
On 23 April 1956, 1,620 CCL and TLC delegates, representing
over a million union members, met in Toronto to found the
Canadian Labour Congress(CLC). Several months later, labour
unity received another boost when the One Big Union and several
other independent unions, including the Locomotive Firemen and
the Railway Trainmen affiliated with the CLC. Across the
country, local and provincial TLC and CCL councils followed
the lead of the national organizations and merged. Two decades
of frustrating competition between Canada's two largest labour
organizations finally had ended. Now only the Catholic unions
of Quebec remained outside the CLC.
The formation of the CLC strengthened the position of labour
in Canadian society. Union members became important allies of
others in Canada, such as the co-operative movement campaigning
for a national health care system, universal social assistance
programs, workers' compensation, minimum wage laws, improved
pension and unemployment plans, and other related programs. The
CLC pursued these issues through educational programs and by
lobbying federal and provincial governments. It also called for
a labour party to replace the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation
(CCF), which had faded considerably in popularity since the end
of World War II.