MADELEINE: By demanding and negotiating for equal pay for equal value in their own bargaining unit, union women decrease the gap in pay and make the bridging into better paid jobs easier. With those efforts should go demands for job equity in collective agreements and active encouragement and assistance to women who bid for better paid, traditionally male jobs.

I think that union women's committees must, and do in a large part in Quebec, relate to other women's organizations in the community that advocate access for women to non-traditional jobs. They must work together. For example, in Quebec, Le conseil d'information pour l'acces des femmes au travail demands better job-training for women and Action travail des femmes has fought for women to get into jobs in the railway shop crafts and in public transportation, jobs overwhelmingly performed by men. It's very difficult for women in unions, say the bus drivers', where they're nearly all men in the first place. It's difficult to convince them that women have a right to the jobs. The position of the women's groups in the community who are involved in action to get women in non-traditional jobs is important in at least raising public awareness and supporting feminist demands. That is when union women's committees come in and support the specialized women's groups.

Where you have sexism you also have racism, and vice versa. I think its important for the women's movement and for unions trying to get women into non-traditional jobs, to stand up for the visible minorities' right to those jobs also. That will combine the strength of those who are the least favourite.

CHRISTINA: You yourself seem a representative of what you advise: active still in the Canadian Textile and Chemical Union, a vibrant member of the board of The National Action Committee on the Status of Women, and of other community organizations including la Ligue des droits et libertés.

MADELEINE: Well, I believe that political action of union people can only be effective if it is joined with the action of progressive, democratic organizations within the community. There's a need for unions, women's organizations, community organizations, and church groups to work together for a better society; to bring about necessary changes or to stop retrogressive ones. There is a certain healthy balance in a coalition between community groups and unions pressuring government for our common interest.

Addressing the workers at a Labour Day demonstration in Valleyfield, Quebec, 1948.

Madeleine Parent was born in Montreal in 1918 and received her B.A. from McGill University in 1942. She has been involved in union organizing since her graduation, mostly in the textile industry where large numbers of women work. She currently lives in Montreal where she is an active member of her union and various women's organizations.

Christina Starr is the Managing Editor of Women's Education des femmes.

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