ome of the most dramatic events of these turbulent times in industrial relations occurred in Quebec. The Quebec workers' militancy, radical politics, and campaign for an independent Quebec in the 1960s and 1970s shocked many observers across the country. The Quebec labour movement grew quickly in the post World War II period, despite strenuous corporate resistance backed by Maurice Duplessis' extreme anti-union provincial government. Between 1951 and 1976, the percentage of organized wage earners increased from 27 to 38 percent. Workers' demands in Quebec were much the same as those of others in Canada.

Major strikes in Asbestos (1949), Louiseville (1952), and Murdochville (1957) announced the arrival of a better-organized and more militant labour movement. Most private sector workers belonged to international unions affiliated with the Quebec Federation of Labour(QFL), which maintained close links with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Throughout this period, the QFL remained the province's largest union federation, representing approximately 40 percent of the province's unionized workers. In 1974, the QFL and the CLC negotiated an agreement that recognized the autonomy of the QFL in areas of organization, education, public relations, and most other functions formerly exercised by the CLC.

The greatest beneficiary of the wave of public sector organizing was the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CNTU). It evolved from the former Catholic unions that had dropped all ties with the church by the early 1960s. By the early 1970s, the CNTU represented about 30 percent of Quebec's union members. Teachers were another group that mobilized quickly. They created a separate but influential organization called the Quebec Teachers' Corporation (QTC).

The massive influx of civil servants radicalized the union movement. In particular, the CNTU and QTC now proposed a socialist agenda for Quebec and called on Quebec workers to create a new labour party. The leadership of the CNTU, QTC, and to a lesser degree the QFL, increasingly linked independence with demands for a new society.

Many of Canada's most publicized and violent strikes in the 1970s occurred in Quebec. Public sector workers led the largest of these confrontations. In 1972, CNTU, QFL, and QTC created a Common Front for negotiations with the provincial government. When the government rejected union demands for major wage increases and improved working conditions, 250,000 union members struck all government services. Sympathy strikes spread to the private sector. It quickly emerged as the largest strike in Canadian history. In the following turmoil, demonstrators clashed with police, courts slapped injunctions against unions, and authorities arrested and jailed strikers. The presidents of the CNTU, QFL, and QTC were charged and convicted for urging their members to defy court injunctions ordering them back to work. The provincial government's aggressive action and poor co-ordination among the unions brought the strike to a quick end.

Labour supporters in Quebec and across Canada demanded the release of the imprisoned trade unionists. This pressure brought results, and after serving only four months of their one-year sentences, the presidents of the Common Front unions were freed. Celebrations marking their release, however, proved to be one of the last gasps of the solidarity of the Common Front. Each federation went its own way, even to the point of reviving old organizational rivalries. The CNTU faced internal challenges when a group of its more conservative members split from the federation to form their own union central. Despite such divisions, Quebec workers remained among the most organized wage earners in Canada, and their unions continued to have an influential voice in the province's social and political realms.

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