1973 – 1982

CUPE has always understood that the fight for the rights of our members is a fight for all workers. 

The world took a sharp turn in the 70s. And not just on the fashion scene.

Decades of full employment and steadily increasing power for workers were coming to a screeching halt.

Grace Hartman was elected CUPE National president in 1973 she made history as the first women to lead a North American trade union. Alongside Hartman was her successor as secretary-treasurer, Keally Cummings.

In B.C. courageous women at the Sandringham Nursing home walked picket lines for three years before winning the right to join CUPE in 1973.

In 1974, CUPE organized 14,000 government workers in Manitoba and unionized our first French private TV station - CFTM in Montreal. 

CUPE continued negotiating away discriminatory collective agreements and standing up for women like Yvonne Henry, a Toronto hospital worker who, in 1974, was fired after asking for a shift change to pick up her daughter. Gender equality meant taking on the fight for better child care.

CUPE marked International Women’s Year in 1975 with a major program attacking sex-discrimination not only in the workplace, but also in its own ranks.

1,100 employees of Ontario’s Worker’s Compensation Board finally won a 12-year fight to join CUPE in 1975.

Inflation was soaring, and Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau brought in sweeping wage controls. CUPE mobilized members in every corner of the country in its biggest campaign to date. 100,000 CUPE members joined a million other Canadians in a one-day general strike in 1976.

The federal government was beaten. They lifted wage controls in 1978.

On the heels of the strike, CUPE hospital workers created the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.

Across Ontario, 14,000 hospital workers joined an illegal strike in 1981. Putting Canadian union leaders in prison sent a wave of outrage across Canada and earned international attention.

In 1981 – the Year of the Disabled – CUPE took up the challenge to ensure more opportunities and fewer barriers to the workforce.

In Digby Nova Scotia, bus drivers went on strike for three and a half years, until 1983, for wage parity.