Best Man At Labor’s Wedding

JOHN X. SANFORD August 20 1955

Best Man At Labor’s Wedding

JOHN X. SANFORD August 20 1955

Best Man At Labor’s Wedding

He was born to luxury, he’s never paid union dues and in eighteen years he’s fought through only one strike. But big Claude Jodoin will become the strongest man in Canadian labor history when the two old giant rivals kiss and make up



A SIGNIFICANT Canadian labor movementevent in the indeed, history of of the the nation itself occurred two months ago in the high-raftered Windsor, Ont., Armories. There, in an atmosphere that would have delighted Dorothy Dix, the 600,000-member Trades and Labor Congress of Canada approved the contract by which; early next year, the TLC will marry up again with its old rival, the 400,000-member Canadian Com gress of Labor.

As soon as the seven hundred and fifty delegates; seemingly forgetting years of estrangement, intercongress lighting and inter-union custody cases, had shouted their consent, one man called out from the convention floor, “Brother Jodoin should sing!” i Up on the dais Mary Joseph Paul Claude Jodoin] the TLC’s large young president, beamed with joy and burst into Alouette, a madrigal he has used to brighten many a union meeting. He waved hi; arms and the crowd joined in.

Brother Jodoin had every reason to sing and 1)6 happy. Not only will the coming merger fulfill tW long fond dream of most ardent trade unionists ^ uniting a million workers from five thousand memi ber-union locals in one huge house of labor —but il will also make Jodoin head of the house.

One of the terms drafted by a joint TLC-CCl Unity Committee, of which Jodoin was a memben provides that the first president of the new Canadian Labor Congress shall come from the TLG Barring some unlikely hitch at the CCL’s conclavi in Toronto this October, leaders in both camps have settled on Jodoin for the job.

Thus this forty-two-year-old Ladies’ Garmen: Workers’ organizer from Montreal, little knowi outside the labor movement until he succeeded to the TLC presidency a year ago, will move into a position of greater potential power than any Canadian labor boss has ever had.


Claude Jodoin’s personal dimensions match the job. He is a big, powerful man who stands six-footone, packing two hundred and sixty-eight pounds on a wide frame. His face is dark, full, expressive and mustachioed. In manner he is the soul of Gallic charm and courtesy. He is polite to bishops and bellhops alike. A forceful fluent speaker in bot h French and English, he rarely raises his baritone voice except in song. He wears conservative, custom-tailored business suits, likes good music, good red wines with his steaks and dislikes, most emphatically, being called a labor leader. “I do not lead labor,” he says. “Labor leads me. I am just a representative of labor.”

In many respects it has never had a more unlikely representative. The big jobs in labor and in management, too are frequently held by men who have fought their way up from humble origins to reach the top. Jodoin, who will head both labor and one of the nation’s biggest businesses in Canada Union dues alone come to fifty million dollars a year— is a switch on both. He was born to luxury. The son of a wealthy corporation lawyer, he grew up in Montreal’s tony Westmount district, lived for a time in a suite in the Mount Royal Hotel and Attended Jesuit colleges, being driven t here often in a chaufieured limousine.

1 But the crash of 1929 ruined Jodoin père, took Dlaude out. of school and made him, at eighteen, a iDushworker. At twenty-five he joined the labor movement as a paid organizer. Never a dues-pay-

ing unionist, as a labor official he has been involved in only one strike—in his first month on the job.

He is a onetime politician who now holds that partisan polit ics is no place for labor even though the Canadian Congress of Labor and a strong minority within his own TLC would like to align the entire movement wit h the socialistic CCF. He is also a labor leader who once told the Montreal Chamber of Commerce that management lo' should improve its own organizing methods. “Only when both sides at a bargaining table are strong,” he has said, “do good, fair contracts result.”

Under Jodoin, organized labor aims to become stronger than ever. In the last fifteen years its ranks have swelled from 362,000 to 1,300,000 twenty-five percent of Canada’s total working force. The TLC-CCL merger will first bring 1,000,000 of these into one federation of unions. Jodoin and the other architects of unity hope to lure in the ('anadian and Catholic Confederation of Labor’s 100,000 members, win over the 150,000 more in unions not linked to any central congress, and either to smash such outcast communist-line unions as MineMill and United Electrical or pressure their 50,000 members to overthrow their Red leaders and join up.

And within five years they plan to enlist another million Canadians particularly wholesale, retail and white-collar workers who now hold no union cards.

Another aim is to give labor one loud voice that cannot be ignored in Ottawa and provincial capitals. As president of this super union, Claude Jodoin will be the chief spokesman of the trade union movement on the political, economic and social problems

of the day. He will be the man to whom the people of Canada must turn for lalior’s views.

In some respects the big chair Jodoin will occupy is a hot seat. He faces two burning questions: how to resolve pronounced political differences—the TLC is, officially, neutral; the CCL rabidly CCF — and how to keep old inter-union feuds from dividing labor all over again.

He handled this latter situation neatly, though not finally, at the Windsor convention. Before the unity terms came up for approval, many TLC union heads were angrily denouncing rival CCL outfits for raiding their ranks and stealing members—bad pre-nuptial talk. But on the eve of the unity debate, Jodoin called all ranking leaders to a caucus in Windsor’s Prince Edward Hotel and told them flatly that unless they shelved their gripes for later negotiation they could wreck the whole merger.

Next day all was serene. In seventy minutes eleven speakers spoke sweet ly of the amalgamation, two raised minor beefs and then the delegates voted unanimously for the merger. After the shout ing and singing, Jodoin announced that CCL president A. R. Mosher would be invited to address the TLC. Actually, Mosher had been sitting in Ottawa, train ticket in hand, awaiting Jodoin’s signal.

What made this significant, and a master stroke on Jodoin’s part, was the fact that the first l>ig breach in Canadian labor, in 1921, came when Mosher and his Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Plmployees were kicked out of the TLC for raiding another union. As a further touch, t he man Jodoin chose to introduce and praise Mosher was an old foe, Frank Hall, Canadian chief of the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks—the same union Mosher had raided.

Continued on page 38

Best Man at Labor’s Wedding


It is by such quiet behind-the-scenes fixing, rather than by force or highflown oratory, that Claude Jodoin has risen in labor. As an organizer in Montreal, he helped make the Garment Workers one of Canada’s most progres¡ sive unions; they have won good wages, pensions and a free medical clinic with ; only one strike—in 1937, to get union recognition. Jodoin is a firm advocate ! of negotiation rather than walkouts to j achieve labor’s aims.

This patient, logical approach has even enabled him to win concessions from labor. For years the American Federation of Labor, to which the TLC is affiliated, had the power to issue charters, or licenses, to some unions in Canada—a right that might seem to belong logically to the TLC. Jodoin wants Canadian labor to run its own show. Not long ago, talking union shop with AFL President George Meany, he mentioned oh-so-casually that a group of U. S. workers—imagine! — had asked the TLC for a charter to operate in the States. "Naturally,” he added, "I turned them down.”

"Naturally,” agreed Meany. "They are hardly in your back yard.”

Jodoin smiled pleasantly. "I’m glad you feel that way, too, George,” he said, "because it’s always seemed ridiculous to me that any American congress should charter workers in Canada.” The AFL no longer does.

With his skill as a diplomatic smoother, Jodoin couples quick-wittedness and a large degree of courage.

. Three years ago he went to the Valleyfield, Que., arena to address a striking local of the AFL-TLC United Textile Workers, whose two top Canadian leaders, Madeleine Parent and Kent Rowley, had just been ousted by the union’s international executive, charged as communists. Jodoin and Roger Provost, now president of the Quebec Federation of Labor, figured largely in their removal. Midway through the meeting called to elect a new executive i and end the strike quickly, a gang of ! about fifty men—-recruited, says Provost, by the Reds—stormed into the rink and began heckling. Fistfights broke out.

Sizing up the situation, Jodoin walked calmly to a microphone and called, as he often does, for a song: God Save the Queen. The hecklers, thinking the meeting was over, left 1 quickly. All doors were locked and the meeting went on. Just as it ended Jodoin was told that the gang was waiting outside to stone him. Provost suggested that Jodoin and his wife Lilly slip out a side door. Jodoin refused. Together they walked out the main door at the head of the crowd and into a hail of rocks, one of which raised a lump on Mrs. Jodoin’s head.

"That one act,” says Provost, "did more than anything we could have said or done to win the confidence of that union.” After years of Red domination, it elected a "clean” executive and the strike was settled promptly.

Jodoin works hard at being a labor leader. Since becoming TLC president a year ago he has visited Trades and Labor Councils from Halifax to Vancouver. A good and obliging speech maker, he tries to accept all invitations to address such management groups as the Personnel Association of Toronto because he feels this helps to sell labor’s views. In Ottawa Jodoin usually spends an eight-hour day at TLC head-

quarters on MacLaren Street—his office is a large wood-paneled room livened by homespun habitant-print drapes— then fills his briefcase with the day’s Hansard, a report on Manitoba’s labor code or the latest unemployment figures and goes home to work another three hours in his cramped book-filled den. He gives so much time to his job that his wife has said, "I’m going to start a union to get the forty-hour-week for labor leaders.”

Lilly Jodoin is a slender striking brunette, a former traveler for Elizabeth Arden. They met eleven years ago at a Montreal charity bazaar where Claude was spinning the roulette wheel. Married in 1947, they have no children. On his TLC salary of fourteen thousand six hundred dollars they live in a new, mortgaged, six-room bungalow in the Ottawa suburb of Billings Bridge and Jodoin drives to work in a Chevrolet.

I n his youth, Claude Jodoin was used to much more. His father, Henri, was chief solicitor for the Grand Trunk Railway and a man who did well on Montreal’s St. James Street. Their home was a big brick house in Westmount, surrounded by manicured lawns, but when the Mount Royal Hotel was first built they lived there in a suite for a while. Claude, youngest of three children, went to public school, then to two private Jesuit colleges, Jean-deBrebeuf and St. Mary’s. He studied the classics and planned to become a surgeon.

Ri&ht Man at the Right Time

Jodoin was in his sophomore college year when the stock market crash ruined his father. The Jodoins sold their home, car and most of their other possessions and moved into a seedy flat. Father Jodoin was ill and couldn’t work for a long time (he eventually became a clerk), so Claude quit school at eighteen and went to work on a highway department road gang, clearing scrub and chopping trees for fifteen dollars a week.

Four years later he landed a job with the highways accounting office ir Montreal. There he joined the Twen tieth Century Young Liberal Clubforerunner of the Young Liberal As sociation — and later, from 1938 to 1942 was its national president. He als joined several labor clubs and began t study labor history ("I read about San Gompers, father of American unionism and all those brothers,” he recalls).

It was then too, in 1937, that hr heard the International Ladies’ Gar ment Workers’ Union in Montreal wa looking for an organizer. The jot offered thirty-five dollars a week, ter dollars more than he then made. On man who has known Jodoin since thos days, Kalmen Kaplansky, chairman c the Jewish Labor Committee, says to day, "There’s nothing spectacula about Claude’s rise in labor. He’s jus always been the right man around a the right time.”

Jodoin had a friend introduce him t Bernard Shane, the bald, cigar-smokin little man who had been sent up fror New York to organize Montreal needle trades. What Shane was lookin for, more than experience, was French-speaking man who "had a goo mouthpiece”—i.e., the gift of gol Jodoin filled the bill. "Claude didn know a thing about the garment ir dustry,” says Kaplansky. "Bul he w? a big, good-looking young guy who wi very polite. He knew how to get alo® with people and that’s always been h greatest asset.”

The first day Jodoin reported f‘ work Shane wasn’t there. After sitti® idle for an hour he asked a stenograph1 if there was anything he could d' "Sure,” she said, handing him a broom. His first act on behalf of labor was to sweep out the union hall.

Three weeks after Jodoin joined it, the Garment Workers’ fifty-five hun dred members in Montreal struck foi union recognition. Jodoin’s job as strike secretary of Local 262 was to arrange picket lines and prepare a Hal for the first strike meeting. The mem bership of his local was largely feminine. "It was wonderful,” Jodoin recalls, "to see the enthusiasm of the ladies. They may be harder to convince but j once they make up their minds they’re better than any group of men.”

One reason for the enthusiasm of the ladies was that at their meetings Jodoin often sang to them—"to ease the ten! sion and keep up morale,” he says.

During the strike Maurice Duplessis, then Attorney-General of Quebec, ordered a warrant for Jodoin’s arrest on charges of conspiracy. Jodoin says he has no idea why the warrant was ordered, even less why it was never served. At the end of three weeks his j union won out. It has had no real trouble in Montreal since then—due largely, Quebec labor officials say, to the fact that Jodoin negotiated sound contracts and saw to it that no one in his union violated them.

But big trouble was then shaping up elsewhere on the labor front. Only the year before, 1936, John L. Lewis, his United Mine Workers and several other unions had been expelled from the AFL for organizing workers on an industrywide scale, rather than on an individual craft basis. They formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and began a rivalry with the AFL that has I always been bitter, often bloody.

Jodoin had been in the labor movement only two years when the schism spread to Canada. In 1939. under pressure from the AFL, the Trades and Labor Congress expelled the Canadian branches of the international unions within the CIO. These found a natural ally in A. R. Mosher who, after his rail union was booted from the TLC,

founded his own tong, the All-Canadian Congress of Labor. In 1940 the TLC’s banished unions united to form the Canadian Congress of Labor, cousin to Lewis’ CIO. They went out to organize entire industries and built up such vast union empires as the United Auto Workers and the Steelworkers, each with more than seventy thousand members in Canada. Thus began a struggle for power within the ranks of Canadian labor that has continued up to this eve I of labor’s wedding.

Jodoin recalls those days with regrets. "Trade unionism has always preached strength through unity,” he says. "But for years we didn’t practice it.”

During World War II, Jodoin was j turned down by the army, navy and air force because of a childhood foot injury that still makes him limp slightly. He remained with the Garment Workers and was one of organized labor’s three appointees to the Montreal city council. In 1942 he ran as a Liberal candidate in a by-election in Montreal-St. James and, at twentynine, became Quebec's youngest MPP. In 1944 he was defeated when Duplessis’ Union Nationale swept back into power.

Four years later Jodoin and the Liberals parted company. He claims that the nomination for St. James was offered to him again but that he turned it down because he couldn’t see eye-toeye with the party on labor matters. Liberal spokesmen say Jodoin was simply dropped. Whatever the reason, Jodoin ran in 1948 on a Labor ticket, was soundly beaten and quietly retired from politics.

After the war the great issue in Canadian labor was communism. The labor movement—particularly the TLC—was well sprinkled with Reds, in Montreal, Jodoin fought them effectively. As president of the local Trades and Labor Council lie succeeded in amending the constitution so that members who spouted the party line could be drummed out.

Veteran Frank Hall probably could have had the top job. Does he want to be the power behind Claude Jodoin’s throne?

The Red issue first brought Jodoin into national prominence and gave the TLC its worst days. The TLC, older and less radical than the COL, was ironically the Reds’ happiest hunting grounds, chiefly because its politically neutral policy protected them from being rooted out for political reasons. The biggest nest of communists was the Canadian Seamen’s Union whose president, Pat Sullivan, was also secretarytreasurer of the TLC.

But, in 1947, the CSU suffered two serious blows. The first came when Sullivan resigned from the union and the TLC, publicly confessing that he had been a comrade all along and that now his conscience and democracy bad won out. The second was when a CSU goon squad broke up a union meeting in Fort William, Ont., that was being addressed by Frank Hall, Canadian chief of the Railway and Steamship Clerks and a Red hater from ’way back. Next, day Hall began a long and successful battle to replace the nine - thousand-member CSU with another AFL affiliate, the Seafarers’ International Union. Fought wfith angry words in union halls and with rocks and clubs along waterfronts, if led eventually to a thorough purge of all communistdominated unions within the ILL.

At the TLC’s 1949 convention in Calgary, while the house cleaning was still on, Hall and a group) of other international union heads put up) three "right-wing, anti-communist” candidates against the administration of Percy Bengough, the gruff old TLC president. The man they picked for Quebec vice-president was Claude Jodoin. On the eve of the election Jodoin purposely walked the downtown streets of Calgary with Roger Provost of the Quebec Federation of Labor. "We met I about two hundred brothers that night,” Provost recalls, "and Claude greeted about one hundred and ninety of them by their first, names—even men he’d met only once before. That boy’s I a politician.”

Next day two of the Hall candidates were defeated, largely because the "right-wing, anti-communist” label offended most delegates, implying as it did that Bengough’s entire executive took orders from Moscow. Jodoin got ' in, by two votes.

In the five years he spent as Quebec vice-president, Jodoin went five times to Geneva to represent the TLC at International Labor Organization meetings and once to London for the Coronation. He also became an executive member of the powerful International Confederation of f ree Trade-Unions and was one of the few men who tried, in vain, to keep observers from Russia and Czechoslovakia out of the Confederation’s 1954 sessions.

.Just as the gravest split in Canadian labor—the expulsion of the CIO industrial unions from the TLC in 1939— was directed from the United States, so the impetus to heal it came in 1952 from Washington. That fall two old foes. AFL President William Green and CIO chief Philip Murray, died within

two weeks of each other. Old grudge seemed to die with them. They wen succeeded by George Meany an; Walter Reuther, both longtime advo cates of labor unity. Immediately the; began working out a merger. The; Canadian counterparts, the TLC an; CCL, promptly followed suit. The; main j)oint. of difference had long sine vanished: both congresses had em-

braced craft and industrial unionism.

While TLC and CCL officials wer negotiating the first step) toward me: ger —a pact to halt union raidingseventy-year-old Bengough decided t retire. Promptly several men, anion them R. K. Gervin of Vancouver an A. F. MacArthur of Toronto announcer that they had been approached fc "large and representative groups” it seek the presidency. But the strong» group, headed by Frank Hall at’ backed by Bengough, called on Jodoii

As Hall himself might have had th job, if has been suggested that he w> angling to be the power behind tb throne. For his p)art, Jodoin says, have no boss but labor.” For his p)ar Hall says he didn’t personally covet tl presidency—his own job, most rewar ing in Canadian labor, pays sevente; thousand five hundred dollars—but b wanted it to go to "a good and accep able man.” Being acceptable involve being powerful enough to carry a TL election, personable enough to p along with CCL bosses, fair and p)atie: enough to cop)e with the hard domes; problems of a labor merger. On j counts, says Hall, Jodoin seemed to; the right man—on hand at the rig: time.

Quebec Didn’t Like the brice

When Jodoin stood for election last year’s Regina convention his ca; paign manager was his old frier Roger Provost. But the one who ma deals in the hotel rooms, where lab politics is played best, was Frank Ha Oddly enough, Quebec’s big bloc v the hardest to win over. It was alii Jodoin as president—but it also want* Provost as Quebec vice-president. H and Provost talked long into the nig with the Quebec leaders, arguing tb if they hoped to win national sup)p for a French-speaking president, tb must go for an Fnglish-speaking vá president for the first time in Insto: "They wanted Jodoin,” Hall has sa "hut they didn’t like the price.” Fina they agreed to pay it. The vice-p>n dent they went for was George Scholl a former westerner who is now G adian head of the fifty-thousand-me her Machinists union, one of the TL biggest.

Jodoin’s first election, which he « on the first ballot, was patently a d from the top down; but in the year has held office be has so won over t rank and file that in June he was elected by acclamation.

From the start his thoughts were peace between the two old rivals. ( of his first, acts as TLC president 1 to sign a no-raiding p)act with the CC which became effective on January And when, in February, their Amerá counterparts, the AFL and CIO, agr to merge into one fifteen-million-mf her federation, the way was clear ft Canadian wedding.

But, as in any marriage, troubles ahead. One of Jodoin’s toughest ta will be to keep) jurisdictional disp)»: which split labor in the first place, from splitting it again. As old as unions themselves are fights between them to bring the blessings of collective bargaining to the same workers. Such old feuds will have to be settled if there is to be peace in labor’s house. Jodoin is confident the job can be done. "It will take tinte and patience,” he says. "We must never forget that unions were made for workers, not workers for unions.”

A second problem, equally grave, concerns politics. One of the major chores of the Canadian Labor Congress will be winning friends in government and influencing legislation. Just how it will go about this latter job is one of the questions as yet unanswered. Once, thirty years ago, the TLC backed the Canadian Labor Party with such feeble results that at the Windsor convention John W. Bruce, a Toronto plumber who was president of the party then, warned delegates never to make the same mistake again.

Jodoin, who has demonstrated more of a knack for labor politics than the governmental kind, is of the same mind. "Labor,” he has said repeatedly, "must always be master in its own house.”

The CCL, on the other hand, is just as much in favor of direct political action as the TLC is opposed to it. For twelve years it has endorsed the socialistic CCF as "the political arm of labor,” given it hundreds of candidates, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to get them elected.

So far. the alliance hasn’t produced all that was hoped for. Some CCFers fear the party is too closely identified with labor to suit other levels of the electorate. Even so, the CCL unions are almost one hundred percent behind it, though their members haven’t made any great impression at the polls. So, too, is a strong minority—possibly as great as forty percent—within the traditionally neutral TLC. When the i new unified congress gets on its feet, ; the pro-CCF forces from both camps j will undoubtedly try to align it beside the party. Many labor observers give them a good chance of succeeding. But the attempt won’t be made at the first | joint convention. Like a bride asking her husband to lend money to an old beau on their wedding night, it would be just too provoking.

Another possibility raised in both TLC and CCL circles is that a united Canadian labor movement might do well to form a political party of its own, as the huge Trades Union Congress in England has done. Some in labor hold that if this comes about Jodoin might be the man to lead it. Jodoin claims no such ambition.

As for labor’s ambitions, Jodoin rejects the fears now troubling some employer groups that the Canadian Labor Congress will become too powerful in industry and politics. "All we are striving for,” he says, "is complete social security. And when the working class is prosperous, all classes are prosperous. Everybody knows that.”

During the TLC’s Windsor convention, a photographer went to Jodoin’s suite late one night to take pictures. Jodoin, relaxing in his shirt-sleeves w i t h some friends and a highball, told him to snap away. But Gordon Cushing, the TLC’s scholarly-looking secretary-treasurer, objected. "The president of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association isn’t photographed in his 8hirt-sleeves,” he said. "Why make our president look like some boilermaker?”

All right, now, boys,” said Jodoin.

We can solve this nicely.” He put on his coat. The photographer took pictures. Then Jodoin, ever the mediator, Said to his visitors, "Now let’s all take off our coats and try to look like labor leaders.”