Long-time Quebec labour leader dies

CBC News, Saturday 20 July 2002, 14:54:54

MONTREAL—Louis Laberge, a man credited with fighting to improve the rights of Quebec workers even if it meant spending time in jail, has died. He was 78.

Laberge was president of the Quebec Federation of Labour from 1964 to 1991, watching membership grow from 100,000 to half a million during those three decades.

On Friday, the federation's Web site posted a tribute to Laberge in French, praising him for improving the lives of workers in the province.

He is undoubtedly the most important trade unionist we've ever seen in Quebec, said René Roy, secretary-general of the federation. He was a builder, he was a visionary, he was a worker, he was a real trade unionist.

Laberge was sentenced to 12 months in jail in 1972, after helping launch a public sector strike that paralysed the provincial government. A judge ordered hundreds of thousands of workers back on the job. Laberge and two other labour leaders ended up spending about four months behind bars.

The federation said Laberge's legacy includes the group's Solidarity Fund, which has helped create thousands of jobs. He also pushed for provincial legislation in the 1970s that stopped companies from hiring outside help during a strike.

Laberge died late Thursday after having a heart attack at his home northeast of Montreal.