Excerpt from speech to the Canadian Labour Congress convention - 1968

Speeches of Tommy Douglas

Canadian Labour Congress Convention

Toronto, Ontario 1968

The second thing that needs to be adapted, to change, is the role of the trade union movement. For more than half a century the role of the trade union movement in this country has been to improve the lot of the workers. To get better wages, better working conditions, better hours. To establish the right of collective bargaining and to get better agreements.

The workers of this country, whether they’re in the trade union movement or not, are deeply indebted to you for what you have done to improve the living standards of the people who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow. That past still has to be continued. But I’m here this afternoon to suggest that there is another role in which the trade union movement must play its part. And that is a political role.

We have now reached a time in our history when the trade union movement cannot afford to be unconcerned about who sits in the lawmaking bodies of our land. Why? Because with the stroke of a pen, those who have their hands on the levers of power can wipe out in a few days all the gains that you’ve made at the bargaining table and on the picket line.

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