Peterborough and District Labour Council

Standing up for Working People
In our workplaces and our community

In early 1945 the organized workers of Peterborough again saw the need to have a central body for organized labour in the community and the Allied Labour Council of Peterborough and District was formed. The constitution is dated May 1st, 1945.

A rather faded picture from the Peterborough Examiner of 1946 shows a picture of the Council and lists the members of that day as follows: Fred Gandy, President; Mr. Gandy was a member of the Canadian Postal Employees Union. Bob Ward, United Electrical Workers, Corresponding Secretary; many old timers will remember Bob Ward. Albert E. Borland, Treasurer, Canadian Postal Union; Mr. Borland for many years was one of the strongest exponents of credit unionism and co-operatives in the central Ontario area. 0. R. Kidd, Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Employees, Corresponding Secretary; Mr. Kidd and Mr. Gandy were also the first labour representatives on the Peterborough Unemployment Insurance Board of Referees. W. Robinson, Local 524, U.E., C.I.O., Sergeant-at-Arms; S. J. Rowe, Local 22, Federated Association of Letter Carriers; G. A. Rowbotham, Local 140, C.B.R.E.; T. J. Stenton, Local 432, I.A.T.S.E.; H. C. Lord, District Council the Civil Service Union; W. J. Faiers, Mill Drivers Union, Local 883; Tom Markwick, Local 210, United Packinghouse Workers of America, C.I.O.; K.G R. Pound, Local 210, U.P.W.A., C.I.O.; 0. J. Meagher, Federated Association of Letter Carriers; P. Adamson, Local 432, I.A.T.S.E.; 0. Smith, C.B.R.E.; H. Keene, Mill Drivers Union, A.F.L.; S. R. Scott, Brotherhood of Express Employees; K. Sliter, Local 524, U.E., C.I.0.; G. N. Cowan, Trent Canal Employees; F. Wallwork, Local 248; International Typographical Union; H. Dormer, Local 248, International Typographical Union.

The Allied Labour Council was a sounding board for organized labour in municipal matters and a rallying point for organizational activities for a number of years. It is significant that the organized labour movement in Peterborough did not easily divide. The Allied Labour Council contained within its ranks members from international unions affiliated to the Congress of Industrial Organizations, also members from the American Federation of Labour and national unions affiliated to the Canadian Congress of Labour and the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada. The union movement in Peterborough worked harmoniously together when the union movement throughout North America was wracked with fratricidal strife. Eventually a division did develop for other reasons and the Council dissolved.

A couple of years after this the Peterborough and District Labour Council, C.C.L., was formed. This organization served a very useful function as a central labour body for the Canadian Congress of Labour, C.I.0., unions in the Peterborough area.

It is very interesting to look back and see that the trade unionists of seventy-five years ago, the trade unionists of fifty years ago and those of more recent vintage all have some common aims. One of those aims seems to be to have a place that organized labour can call its own in the community. This was true of the Peterborough and District Labour Council, C.C.L.

A report of the January 9th, 1951, Peterborough and District Labour Council, C.C.L., in the Peterborough Examiner states that "the Peterborough and District Labour Council, C.C.L., has given its Executive power to investigate the prospects of building a 'Labour Hall' in Peterborough. This would entail setting up a trust fund. The Council presently meets in a room at 168-1/2 George Street but this room will not accommodate more than twenty people.

"President Alf Barber indicated that a local businessman had offered the Council a lot on McDonald if it decided to build."

Names associated with the Peterborough and District Labour Council and familiar to many trade unionists were Alf Barber, Ed Humphries, Ed Silvester, Tommy Cupoli, Jack Benstead, George Logan, Bill Triggs and Orville Martin.

The Labour Council and the eventually leased headquarters of the Labour Council on Water Street above the Bank of Commerce became a centre for organizing activity. Many people who have become prominent in the Canadian Labour movement spent a considerable period of their apprenticeship working out of one of the various offices of the Labour Council building. The present Director of Organization of the Canadian Labour Congress, Mr. Joe Mackenzie, was one of them; Mr. Murray Cotterill was another. I believe Jack Williams and Howard Conquergood were others.

I believe that Alf Barber was President of the Peterborough and District Labour Council through most of the years if not all the years of its existence.

The unions affiliated to the Trades and Labour Council of Canada, who had been without a local central forum after the demise of the Allied Labour Council, organized the Peterborough Trades and Labour Council in 1951.

Mr. Glenn Price was the first President, Mr. John McPhee was the Vice-President, Mr. Cameron Wasson was the Treasurer and the writer was the Corresponding and Recording Secretary. Others associated were the late Dick Martin, the late George Degan, Gus Siegal, Merv Williamson, Henry O'Rourke and Bill Given.

This Council was a vigorous and active group and represented the A.F.L.-T.L.C. unions of Peterborough in municipal and organizational matters in a lively manner. It was primarily responsible for a great building of the union organization that took place in the early forties.

The two central labour bodies in Peterborough continued to co-operate fully to the greatest extent. A poster proclaiming a meeting is attached which in some degree demonstrates the kind of co-operation that took place, This was particularly true of municipal efforts. It is therefore not surprising that as soon as there were indications that the two national labour centres in Canada, the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada and the Canadian Congress of Labour, might merge, a merger committee was set up by the Peterborough Trades and Labour Council and the Peterborough and District Labour Council, C.C.L. The culmination of this effort was that the Peterborough and District Labour Council, C.L.C., was the first merged Labour Council in Canada.

As could be expected initially the merged Council was heavily involved in many areas of community activity. Organized labour was faring slightly better with respect to representation on City Council and was represented by two trade unionists who earned the respect of all sections of the community - Mr. William Triggs, an active member of the Labour Council and a past president of Local 293, U.P.W.A., at the Quaker Oats Company, and another U.P.W.A. representative who came out of the same union and later became a Staff Representative of the U.P.W.A., Mr. William Beggs, also a former officer of Local 293.

The first time the possibility of a post-secondary educational institution being located in Peterborough was raised was at the Peterborough Labour Council meeting on February 13th, 1957.

In 1960, however, the united voice of all organized labour was heard politically for the first time in a very long period. The C.C.F. and the Canadian Labour Congress had come together to form a broadly based "People Party" which would be acceptable to not only workers and farmers but small businessmen, teachers and people in many other professions. A by-election was held in Peterborough and Peterborough trade unionists flocked to work for the election of the then comparatively unknown "New Party" candidate. The candidate's name was Walter Pitman and in Peterborough at least his name is a popular and respected household word. He is far from being unknown to the rest of Canada.

Mr. Pitman was elected with a pleasing majority. The joy was to be short-lived however because he was defeated in the next general election.

Mr. Pitman has not sunk into oblivion however. He has become one of the people who have become the leaders of the social democratic movement in Canada. He also served a term in the Provincial Legislature. He has always identified with organized labour. After serving for several years as Dean at Trent University he is now leaving our community to become the President of Ryerson College. It is an honour for many of us in the labour community to have known and worked with him.

A long cherished dream of the Peterborough labour movement came into being on May 13th, 1968. The Peterborough Labour Centre was officially opened.

Efforts to construct a hall for organized labour in Peterborough in recent memory go back to January 9th, 1951, in the Peterborough and District Labour Council, C.C.L., and about the same time in the Peterborough Trades and Labour Council.

Plans for a building as far as the Peterborough and District Labour Council, C. L.C., is concerned go back to 1956. At that time a 3% assessment on affiliated unions grew to about $9,000 in ten years and formed the financial basis for construction of a building that would serve as a central meeting place for all labour unions in the city.

This was not the first effort in this direction but it was the first successful effort. In the period from 1920, the Allied Labour Council of Peterborough and District, the Peterborough and District Labour Council, C.C.L., and the Peterborough Trades and Labour Council, T.L.C., all exercised their best efforts towards achieving a permanent home for organized labour, but the best that could be achieved was rented quarters.

The original Board of Directors consisted of Gerry Reeds, Bill Mulders, Jack Narhgang, Gus Siegel, Roy Hadwyn, Stan McCormick, Gordon Reynolds, Walter Pollard, Jim Fairs and Dick Martin.

The Members of the Board at the time the Centre officially opened were Dick Martin, Eric May, Don Caban, Gordon Snape Jr., Charles Lester, Jack Benstead, Doug Lloyd, John Dunsford, Robert White and Les McDougal.

The main speaker at the opening banquet was David Archer, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Greetings and good wishes were given by Mr. Hugh Faulkner, M.P. for this riding; Mr. Walter Pitman, M.L.A.; Mr. T. H. B. Symons, President and Vice Chancellor of Trent University, and Mr. David Sutherland, President of Sir Sandford Fleming College.