he postal workers' wild-cat strike brought significant changes to the way the federal government and, eventually, most provincial governments dealt with their employees. In 1967, the federal government passed the Public Service Staff Relations Act. This complex legislation essentially extended collective bargaining rights to government workers and allowed them the option of arbitration or the right to strike to settle disputes. Significant restrictions remained on which employees could unionize (for example, the military and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were excluded) and circumstances under which strikes were allowed. However, the majority of government workers now had the right to collective bargaining. Government workers' response to the legislation proved dramatic. They unionized in record numbers. Federal government employees joined the Public Service Alliance of Canada(PSAC), whose membership reached over 180,000 by the 1980s. As provincial governments passed similar enabling legislation, their workers unionized mostly into affiliates of the 275,000 strong National Union of Provincial Government Employees. Other public sector workers entered the ranks of the labour movement at the same time. The Canadian Union Of Public Employees(CUPE) burst onto the scene recruiting thousands of municipal and provincial workers, and workers employed in hospitals, schools, day cares, nursing homes, libraries, social service agencies and other related sectors of the economy. By the mid-1980s, CUPE'S 330,000 members made it Canada's largest union. CUPE's membership also reflected the changing composition of Canada's paid labour force and the new reality of the union movement. Women constituted 50 percent of CUPE membership. Women assumed significant positions in the union's leadership, including its presidency. CUPE emerged as an ardent campaigner for equal pay for work of equal value, maternity benefits, and childcare.

A pattern of increasing unionization among professionals employed in other quasi-government jobs also occurred. Teachers, nurses, social workers, professors, and cultural workers - for example, those employed in museums, orchestras, and art galleries - all sought private- sector collective bargaining rights. Initially, many of these groups stood apart from the mainstream labour movement. However, harsh attacks on all collective bargaining rights in the coming decades would gradually draw them closer together.

The decision of nurses to change their organizations from "associations" to "unions" symbolically represented this shift in thinking. The influx of public sector workers into the labour movement changed the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Membership of the CLC's Canadian unions surpassed that of the international unions for the first time in history. This development created tension in the CLC over policies and organizational dues. A group of international building trades unions withdrew from the CLC in the mid-1980s over these issues, but rejoined a several years later.

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