OTD: Canadian Labour Congress formed

On today’s date in 1956, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) formed in Toronto after a merger of the Canadian Congress of Labour and the Trades and Labour Congress.

Now in its 65th year, the CLC has been instrumental in initiating programs to help protect the rights, livelihoods and health of Canadian workers by uniting dozens of national and international unions, provincial and territorial federations of labour and community-based labour councils. Altogether, it has represented more than three million workers.

“By the 1950s, the time had come for a single, country-wide labour organization to help unions work together around common goals,” reads the CLC website. “Industrial growth, the rising influence of ‘big business’ and expanding government involvement in the social and economic life of the country demanded a strong, unified voice for working Canadians. That led to the creation of the CLC in 1956.”

Two of its many affiliates are the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), which represents the majority of Canada Post’s employees, and the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association, which represents rural postal workers.

Because of these unions and others, public service workers in Canada have “decent pay, benefits and pensions,” reads the CLC website, which adds those workers “had to fight to win those gains.”

In 1965, the CUPW fought for the rights to bargain collectively, to strike, to earn higher wages and to work under better management.

“They defied government policies and staged an illegal, country-wide strike,” adds the CLC website. “That strike would go down in history as one of the largest ‘wildcat’ strikes in Canada. It lasted two weeks and ended with the government extending collective bargaining rights to the entire public service, although some workers, such as the RCMP and the military, were excluded.”

Canada Post also issued official first-day covers franked with a single stamp (shown) or a plate block of four stamps.

2006 CLC STAMP

In 2006 – 50 years after the CLC was established – Canada Post featured the national trade union centre on a 51-cent stamp (Scott #2149).

Printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company on Tullis Russell Coatings coated paper, the stamp depicts both a black and a white hand holding the globe alongside the dates “1956-2006” and the words “CANADIAN LABOUR CONGRESS / CONGRES DU TRAVAIL DU CANADA.”

Stamp designer Steven Spazuk collaborated with photographer Marc Montplaisir to capture the essence of the organization, including its past accomplishments, present mandate and goals for the future.

“After looking at a number of concepts, we decided to go with a depiction of the Canadian Labour Congress logo—only with a twist,” said Spazuk. “It’s really a photographic interpretation of the logo. The image shows two hands holding a crystal ball that contains a silhouette of North America. One hand is masculine, the other feminine, one white and the other black.”

Additionally, the background is an important part of the design.

“We wanted to tell a compelling story that would highlight 50 years’ worth of accomplishments,” explained Liz Wong, stamp design manager with Canada Post. “If you look closely at the background, you’ll see it’s a tapestry that lists (in English and French) many of the benefits that unionized and non-unionized Canadian workers have received over the past 50 years. Thanks to Mr. Spazuk’s brilliant design work, the image succeeds in capturing the organization’s past, present and future.”

The stamp was issued in 16-stamp panes, three million of which were printed (and with each stamp measuring 29 millimetres by 40 millimetres). Two official first-day covers – one with a single stamp and another with a plate block of four stamps – were also issued as part of the CLC set.

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