Canadian Labour Congress

The Canadian Labour Congress, or CLC (French: Congrès du travail du Canada or CTC) is a national trade union centre, the central labour body in English Canada to which most Canadian labour unions are affiliated.

Canadian Labour Congress
Full nameCanadian Labour Congress
FoundedApril 23, 1956
Members3.3 million
AffiliationInternational Trade Union Confederation
Key people
  • Hassan Yussuff (President)
  • Marie Clarke Walker (Secretary-Treasurer)
  • Larry Rousseau (Executive Vice-President)
  • Donald Lafleur (Executive Vice-President)
Office locationOttawa, Ontario, Canada



CLC history
History tree of the CLC

The CLC was founded on April 23, 1956 through a merger of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC) and the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL), the two major labour congresses in Canada at the time. The TLC's affiliated unions represented workers in a specific trade while the CCL's affiliated unions represented all employees within a workplace, regardless of occupation. The trades-based organizational model, which strongly continues today especially in the building and construction industries, is based in older European traditions that can be traced back to guilds. However, with industrialization came the creation of a new group of workers without specific trades qualifications and, therefore, without ready access to the representation offered by the TLC's affiliates. In response, these workers adopted the industrial model of union organization and formed the CCL as their umbrella organization.

The spectacular growth of industrial jobs in the first half of the 20th century, combined with new legislation in most Canadian jurisdictions explicitly recognizing the industrial union organizational model, led to fears of raiding between the unions belonging to the two federations, the TLC and the CCL. Tensions were increased because of significant political differences. The TLC leadership, in the person of President Percy Bongough, had actively supported the Liberal Party. With the defeat of Liberal R. K. Gervin and Conservative A. F. MacArthur by Claude Jodoin at the TLC's convention in August 1953, some of the political differences between the TLC and CCL began to wane. Jodoin was not a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation party, having served for a time as a Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly in the Province of Quebec. However, after some conflicts with the Liberals leadership, he sat as an independent and then ran (and was defeated) as an independent in the general election of 1944. Within the CCL, a different but equally important story had played out. By the early 1950s, the leadership of the CCL unions was clearly in the hands of CCF supporters after a decade-long battle between CCFers and a coalition of Liberals and Communists. This CCF leadership was confident enough in its position to down-play partisanship in order to create harmony between the rival labour organizations.

In December 1953 the TLC and CCL created a joint committee to explore means of cooperation and possible merger. On May 9, 1955 the joint committee announced that a merger agreement had been reached. The terms were accepted by the June 1955 TLC convention and in October 1955 by the CCL convention. The formation of the CLC was an important step in maintaining harmony between Canadian unions by recognizing and supporting both models of worker representation and giving all unions affiliated with the CLC a pledge of protection from raiding.


During the initial years of the CLC, industrial growth drove union membership to new heights. These workers tended to be in private sector industries such as manufacturing, transportation and mining.

However, the growth of public sector employment and the new ability of these workers to join unions became the significant story of the 1960s. In 1963, independent unions representing civic workers and workers in the broader public sector merged their organizations to form the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, legislative changes allowed employees of the federal and provincial public service to join unions, bringing new members into CLC-affiliated unions. During this period, hospital workers increasingly became unionized.

In the 1990s, unions of teachers, nurses and other similar groups affiliated with the CLC and the CLC's provincial labour federations.

Structure of the Canadian labour movement

Under the general labour relations laws in effect in all Canadian jurisdictions, groups of workers deemed "appropriate for collective bargaining" may vote to join a union. The appropriateness of a group for collective bargaining is established by the Labour Board of the jurisdiction and may consist of all employees of an enterprise at a single location or a select group of employees—maintenance workers, a specific trade or regulated group (such as teachers or nurses), front office employees, etc.

Where such a vote is successful, the union that they have joined becomes their bargaining agent and the workers in the jobs to which the collective agreement pertains are members of a bargaining unit. Depending upon the terms of the collective agreement, some or all of the workers employed in jobs covered by the collective agreement will become members of the union which has become their bargaining agent. Union members within a bargaining unit elect their stewards, health and safety representatives and unit leadership.

In industrial sectors, local unions may have members in several bargaining units. These are so-called "amalgamated locals" and are increasingly becoming the norm. Within some local unions there may be tens—indeed hundreds—of bargaining units. All the union members in all the bargaining units that belong to the same local union elect their local union executive board, including president. The local union may have various sub-committees of the executive board such as political action and health and safety. In each bargaining unit, the unions will establish a union bargaining committee for the bargaining unit prior to commencing negotiations with the employer. This bargaining committee will meet with the union's members within the bargaining unit to determine the needs and wants of the membership. However, it is important to note that under laws in Canada, since the local union is the legal bargaining agent, the signature of the local union's president or appointed representative must appear on the contract for it to be legally binding. Union constitutions may also require the signature of their national or regional president. Hence the bargaining unit's bargaining committee is essentially an advisory group, and not decisive. However, since the local union's leadership is elected by members in the bargaining units, giving all due weight to the input and objectives of the bargaining committees is critical to the leadership's on-going success.

Local unions are chartered organizations of the national or international union to which they belong. A local union charter may contain clauses that limit and/or protect the scope of the local union. For example, the charter may identify the geographic area, trade, industry, etc. to which the local union must confine itself or to which it has the exclusive mandate to represent workers.

Other sectors have other structures as determined by the needs of the industries and the legal framework. Most jurisdictions have separate legislation under which employees of the public service may form unions. In some provinces, colleges, fire protection and police services have separate Acts. Hotel employees may also have special legislation that works alongside the labour relations legislation for that province but which removes the right to strike and replaces it with binding arbitration.

Due to the mobility of the workforce in the construction sector, most jurisdictions set out special rules for bargaining for workers and employers in that sector. In that sector, local unions receive bargaining agent rights for a trade of workers at a single employer, similar to the industrial sector. However, union construction workers and unionized construction employers create provincial or regional bargaining agents with the authority to negotiate one contract that applies to all bargaining units. These regional bargaining units must be certified by the Labour Board of the jurisdiction and in making the decision regarding what group will be certified as the bargaining agent for workers, the Boards will consider which unions have the preponderance of membership in a given trade. This method tends to reinforce the focus of construction sector unions upon the trade(s) in which they have historic strength and thereby militates against "competition" (i.e.: raiding) between worker organizations—a benefit to both workers and employers of the sector. As a result of the legal framework, a chartered local union within the construction sector will typically have a charter to represent all workers in a specified trade and within a specified region.

Typically, the chartered local unions of a union elect delegations (with the size of the delegation based upon membership size) to attend regional, national and international conventions of the union at which leadership boards are elected.

Local unions are also the fundamental unit of the Canadian Labour Congress. The CLC is a central labour body to which unions are affiliated. Only in rare cases groups of workers with collective bargaining rights can be "directly chartered" as locals of the CLC. Local unions of Canadian labour organizations may affiliate to the CLC and pay the required per capita fees. Payment of affiliation fees allows for participation in the decision-making processes of the CLC. Conventions are held every three years. A union with 1000 or less members is entitled to one delegate. Another delegate is added after each increment of 500 members. Many Canadian labour organizations have, at their own conventions, established policies, by-laws or constitutions requiring local unions to affiliate to the CLC.

Most local unions are affiliated to the Canadian Labour Congress. However, there are a number of unions that discourage their locals from affiliating for a variety or reasons. The largest group is based in Quebec, where the role of the Catholic Church in establishing some unions lead those organizations to reject of the social democratic orientation of unions elsewhere in Canada. When the role of the Catholic Church in Quebec unions disintegrated during the Quiet Revolution, the leadership of the unions in that province was quickly captured by separatists who eschewed participation in national organizations such as the CLC and the New Democratic Party (NDP). This group of Canadian workers remains outside the CLC. Another considerable group outside the CLC is the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), which is strongly opposed by the CLC, which labels it a company union.

The Conventions of the CLC elect the Officers—the President, Secretary-Treasurer and two Executive Vice-Presidents. The executive committee looks after the affairs and administration of the congress. It consists of the officers and vice presidents and meets at least four times a year. The CLC's executive council, which is the governing body of the CLC between conventions, consists of the congress officers, the leadership of the 22 largest unions in the CLC, and representatives of women, people of colour, aboriginal, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, youth and retired workers. This group meets at least three times a year. The role of the CLC is to represent its affiliates to the government, media, etc., to co-ordinate the efforts of various unions on specific campaigns—either electoral or issues-based—and to promote non-competition between its affiliates.

In each Canadian province a federation of labour has been established. While these are separate entities, the leadership of provincial federations are members of the CLC executive council.

The CLC has also chartered approximately 130 district labour councils (DLC), based upon municipal jurisdictions. An example of this could include the Sunshine Coast Labour Council in British Columbia. Local unions with membership within the county, region or city of the DLC may affiliate and participate in the labour council. These councils assist with provincial or national political or issue campaigns and also lead efforts in municipal elections.

The CLC has head offices in Ottawa out of which it runs the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada. Regional offices are in Moncton, Toronto, Regina and Vancouver. Field workers based in these offices assist DLCs and their political and issues campaign

Since 1994, the CLC has been a member of the Halifax Initiative, a coalition of Canadian non-governmental organizations for public interest work and education on international financial institutions.

Relationship with political parties

In the aftermath of the Second World War, various political trends played out within the Canadian labour movement as political parties and their supporters rallied for leadership control of the emerging labour movement.

The Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC) held a policy of non-partisan activity right up until the formation of the CLC. However, within the TLC, efforts were made by Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) labour activists to attain a policy of CCF support. A significant measure of this support was the 133–133 tie vote at the TLC's 1954 Ontario convention on the matter of CCF support.

With the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL), the situation was more complex. As a child of the Great Depression and the international romance with revolution in the decades immediately after 1917, Communist Party of Canada labour activists had taken leadership positions in several key unions and locals of CCL-affiliated unions. Indeed, the Workers Unity League (WUL) was a group of Communist-led unions in the 1930s with considerable organizational success. With adoption of the position of a United Front against fascism after 1939, the WUL merged with the CCL.

And even with the CCL there were many local unions with Communist leadership. In particular the United Auto Workers locals in Windsor, Ontario were Communist-led. The orientation of the Windsor UAW locals deeply affected the legislative and parliamentary elections in the Windsor area. In the 1943 elections, the CCF had won all three Windsor-area seats. But in 1945 the UAW locals endorsed three UAW activists who ran as "UAW-Liberal-Labour" candidates with the support of the Labor-Progressive Party (LLP). As a result, the CCF lost all three Windsor seats. Taking advantage of a mis-step by the leadership of UAW Local 200 in trying to rally a national one-day strike in sympathy of Ford workers, in 1946 CCF activists within the Locals 195 and 200 overturned their leadership. In addition, the UAW International Board elections of 1947 gave stronger support to Walter Reuther, the CCF-supporting International President. Between these two trends, the Canadian UAW leadership changed directions. In the 1948 provincial elections, the United Auto Workers supported CCF candidates.

Similarly, the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) in British Columbia was also Communist-led. When, in 1948, CCF supporters gained control of the IWA's New Westminster local, other BC-based (and Communist-led) locals of the IWA withdrew in an attempt to form an independent union. However, this effort failed when the union members did not endorse the change.

Efforts to dislodge communists from the United Electrical (UE) and the Mine Mill union did not succeed, and these unions were expelled from the Canadian Congress of Labour. Hence by 1950, the Canadian Congress of Labour had become a federation of unions which, to a greater or lesser extent, all supported the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.

With the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada–Canadian Congress of Labour merger complete in 1956, a further step was taken. Although political discussion was downplayed during the merger talks, in 1958 the Canadian Labour Congress and Co-operative Commonwealth Federation set up a 20-person joint committee to discuss the foundation of a new political party. These talks resulted in the founding of the New Democratic Party in 1962. the NDP has, in its constitution, an organic relationship with the labour movement. Many local union organizations directly affiliated with the NDP, giving these local union bodies the right to participate in the Party's conventions and councils. NDP constitution also recognizes the CLC's District Labour Councils, organizations of local unions in a single city or town, as delegating bodies to the conventions of the provincial and federal New Democratic Party sections. Hence, by embedding labour organizations in its structure, the NDP went beyond being simply the party for labour and became the party of labour.

Since the foundation of the NDP, and particularly since the 1980s, the labour movement's relationship within the social democratic left has changed in two specific and important ways. First, unions have increased their involvement with social coalition groups such as organizations advocating for women's economic rights, peace or other causes which have an avowedly non-partisan orientation. Second (and not unrelatedly), the relationship of some unions with the NDP became more tactical and seemed less to be a long-term alliance.

These two trends were apparent in the 1988 federal elections. At the outset of the election campaign, several unions had established partnerships with organizations such as the Council of Canadians in order to attempt to derail the Conservative government's Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement. These social coalition groups and the Liberal Party made opposition to the Free Trade Agreement the focus of their campaign efforts. While the NDP attained their best result in the party's history, some union leaders publicly criticized the NDP leadership immediately after the election for not being sufficiently focused on opposition to the Free Trade Agreement.

Since that election, the tactical nature of the relationship between some unions and the NDP has even further degraded to their point where the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW), the successor to the Canadian section of the UAW has, since the late 1990s, supported the Liberal Party federally and in Ontario provincial elections. Nonetheless, other significant unions have remained steadfast in their support and involvement with the NDP as their top political priority, even while maintaining involvement in social coalitions. Given the size of the CAW with the Canadian labour movement, the CAW's support for the Liberals has caused significant problems for the CLC leadership in continuing to follow the Congress' policy of NDP support.

National Day of Mourning

The Canadian Labour Congress had officially established April 28 as the National Day of Mourning to workers killed and injured on the job. The National Day of Mourning monument was dedicated by the Canadian Labour Congress on April 28, 1987 in Vincent Massey Park, Ottawa, Ontario.


Affiliated unions


  1. ^ "Donald MacDonald". Government of Canada. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-02-11. MacDonald took over as acting president in 1967, as Jodoin suffered severe and debilitating health problems. MacDonald would be elected to his own mandate in April 1968

External links


The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) is a Canadian labour union representing performers in English-language media. It has 25,000 members working in film, television, radio and all other recorded media.The organization negotiates, safeguards, and promotes the professional rights of its members. It also works to increase work opportunities for its members and lobbies for policy changes at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

ACTRA's regional chapters present ACTRA Awards to honour the best in Canadian radio and television performances in their local productions.

British Columbia Federation of Labour

British Columbia Federation of Labour is a central organization for organized labour in British Columbia, Canada.

Founded in 1910 and now having over 500,000 individual members and 1200 locals or union sections, the BC Federation of Labour is the provincial Canadian Labour Congress affiliate and the umbrella organization for organized labour in British Columbia.

Canadian Congress of Labour

The Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL) was founded in 1940 and merged with Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC) to form the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in 1956.

Canadian Union of Public Employees

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE, French: Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique) is a Canadian trade union serving the public sector - although it has in recent years organized workplaces in the non-profit and para-public sector as well. CUPE is the largest union in Canada, representing some 650,000 workers in health care, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, transportation, emergency services and airlines. Over 60% of CUPE's members are women, and almost a third are part-time workers. CUPE is affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress and is its greatest financial contributor.

Communications Workers of America

Communications Workers of America (CWA) is the largest communications and media labor union in the United States, representing about 700,000 members in both the private and public sectors(also in Canada and Puerto Rico). The union has 27 locals in Canada via CWA-SCA Canada (Syndicat des communications d'Amérique) representing about 8,000 members. CWA has several affiliated subsidiary labor unions bringing total membership to over 700,000. CWA is headquartered in Washington, DC, and affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the Canadian Labour Congress, and UNI Global Union. The current president is Chris Shelton.

Dennis McDermott

Dennis McDermott, (November 3, 1922 – February 13, 2003) was a Canadian trade unionist, Canadian Director of the United Auto Workers from 1968 to 1978 and president of the Canadian Labour Congress from 1978 to 1986.

Born in Portsmouth, England, McDermott immigrated to Canada in 1948 and settled in Toronto where he worked as an assembler and welder at the Massey-Harris plant. He became a full-time organizer for the United Auto Workers in Canada (UAW) in 1954. He was elected Canadian Director of the UAW in 1968 and became an international vice-president of the union in 1970.

As leader of the Canadian UAW he also became a vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress. He left the UAW in 1978 to become president of the CLC.

McDermott was a social activist and civil liberties advocate and joined the Joint Labour Committee to Combat Racial Intolerance soon after arriving in Canada working with the committee to lobby for the enactment of Ontario's first Human Rights Code. He would later serve on the executive of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. He led the Canadian UAW to support the California grape boycott in the 1960s and 1970s.As UAW Canadian Director, McDermott led a campaign against wage controls being implemented by the government of Pierre Trudeau in 1975. Under McDermott, the CLC organized a 100,000 person protest against the federal Liberal government's economic policies in 1981.Following his term as CLC president, McDermott was appointed Canada's ambassador to Ireland in 1986 and served in that position until 1989.

McDermott was strong supporter of the New Democratic Party and organized the CLC to operate a political action program in support of the NDP in the 1979 federal election.

Hassan Yussuff

Hassan Yussuff is a Canadian labour leader and president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Yussuff emigrated to Canada from Guyana as a young man to work as a heavy truck mechanic and soon found employment on the plant floor of CanCar, an automotive parts manufacturer, in Toronto where he became a member of the Canadian Auto Workers. Within a year, he was elected plant chairman of Local 252 of the Canadian Auto Workers and later was elected plant chairman of the General Motors Truck Centre. He later served as a staff representative in the organizing and service departments before being appointed as Director of the CAW Human Rights Department. As such, Yussuff joined the CLC’s Executive Council and then co-chaired the CLC Human Rights Committee.In 1999, he was elected Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress and was then elected Secretary-Treasurer in 2002. He remained in that position until 2014 when he challenged incumbent CLC President Ken Georgetti, defeating him by 40 votes at the CLC's May 2014 convention to become CLC president, and the first person to unseat an incumbent CLC president. On April 20, 2012, Yussuff was elected to a four-year term as President of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA).

International Association of Fire Fighters

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is a labor union representing paid full-time firefighters and emergency medical services personnel in the United States and Canada. The IAFF was formed in 1918 and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO in the United States and the Canadian Labour Congress in Canada. The IAFF has more than 313,000 members in its more than 3,200 affiliate organizations.[3] Its political action committee, FIREPAC, is one of the most active PACs in the country.[4]

International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers

The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (AWIU or Insulators) is a trade union in the United States and Canada, founded in 1903. It is affiliated with the AFL–CIO and the Canadian Labour Congress and the North America's Building Trades Unions.

The union was formerly known as the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers, but the name was changed to reflect a symbolic new direction away from the hazards of exposure to asbestos.

International Labor Communications Association

The International Labor Communications Association (ILCA) is a professional organization for trade union publications and media production departments of national, regional and/or local affiliates of the AFL-CIO and Canadian Labour Congress. It is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization which provides resources, expertise and networking opportunities for labor communicators.

The ILCA was founded in 1955 as the International Labor Press Association. Its formation was brought about by the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The body was established as a means of coordinating the message of the new organization in labor newsletters, newspapers and magazines throughout the labor movements. It changed its name to ILCA in 1985.

The ILCA is not a competitor to the Canadian Association of Labour Media/Association canadienne de la presse syndicale (CALM/acps) (the organization representing labor media in Canada). The ILCA and CALM/acps share the goal of increasing the effectiveness of labor media and promoting the objectives of the labor movement in both nations. Accordingly, both organizations hold fraternal associate membership status in the other, and both organizations have a seat on the other's executive council.

Manitoba Federation of Labour

The Manitoba Federation of Labour is the Manitoba provincial trade union federation of the Canadian Labour Congress.

It was formed in 1956 and has a membership of 95,000 people working in various private sector and public sector fields such as Manufacturing, Government, Retail, Hospitals, Schools, Natural Resources, Tourism, Agriculture, and Transportation.

New Brunswick Federation of Labour

The New Brunswick Federation of Labour is the New Brunswick provincial trade union federation of the Canadian Labour Congress. It has a membership of 40,870.

One Big Union (Canada)

The One Big Union (OBU) was a Canadian syndicalist trade union active primarily in the western part of the country. It was initiated formally in Calgary on June 4, 1919 but lost most of its members by 1922. It finally merged into the Canadian Labour Congress during 1956.

Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association

The Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association of the United States and Canada (OPCMIA) is a trade union of plasterers and cement masons in the construction industry in the United States and Canada. Members of the union finish interior walls and ceilings of buildings and apply plaster on masonry, metal, and wire lath or gypsum. Cement masons are responsible for all concrete construction, including pouring and finishing of slabs, steps, wall tops, curbs and gutters, sidewalks, and paving. The organization is a member union of the AFL–CIO and Canadian Labour Congress.

Prince Edward Island Federation of Labour

The Prince Edward Island Federation of Labour (PEIFL) is the Prince Edward Island provincial trade union federation of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Shirley Carr

Shirley Geraldine Edwina Carr, (May 1929 – June 24, 2010) was a Canadian union leader who was the first woman president of Canada's largest labour organization, the Canadian Labour Congress.

Teamsters Canada

Teamsters Canada is a Canadian trade union affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Canadian Labour Congress. Although the Teamsters have been present in Canada since 1903, Teamsters Canada was only established in 1976. The organization represents 120,000 workers in all industries. It is the largest transportation union in the country, and the largest private sector union under federal jurisdiction.

Yukon Federation of Labour

The Yukon Federation of Labour (YFL) is the Yukon trade union federation of labour chartered by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Although the Yukon is not, strictly speaking, a province, the CLC has recognized the YFL as a provincial federation of labour with the same standing as those of the ten Canadian provinces.

The YFL was founded in 1980 and has a membership of over 5000.

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