Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Making Reform Happen: The Passage of Canada's Collective-Bargaining Policy, 1943–1944

Document type Article
Author Hollander, Taylor
Journal Journal of Policy History
Volume 13
Date 2001
ISSN 1528-4190, 0898-0306
Pages 299-328


Patrick Conroy, the secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL) from 1941 to 1951, was not someone who gave up easily. As a friend observed, the Scottish-born coal miner was a committed trade unionist whose “moral certitude was admirable and… one of his great strengths.” In late 1942, however, Conroy seemed ready to call it quits on the CCL's campaign to win a national collective-bargaining policy in Canada. Since its inception in September 1940, the Congress, which represented most of the industrial unions in the country, had pushed hard for a comprehensive labor policy like the National Labor Relations or Wagner Act in the United States, which protected and advanced the rights of workers. But the Liberal government of Prime Minister Mackenzie King repeatedly refused to move beyond a turn-of-the-century conciliatory framework that emphasized moral suasion and compromise. In late 1942, when a regional organizer asked Conroy whether a collective-bargaining policy appeared likely in the future, the CCL leader replied: “We do not feel it worthwhile to raise people's hopes when the record of the federal government is as it has been.” --Publisher's extract