March 8 : Do you know the trade unionist Léa Roback ?

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Léa Roback (3 November 1903 – 28 August 2000) was a Canadian trade union organizer, social activist, pacifist, and feminist. She campaigned against exclusion, violence, racism and injustice.  A multilingual person and a suffragist (a movement that amongst other thing, fought Women right to vote) she was a pioneer of feminism in Québec 

In 1936 she participated in the organization of the unemployed, which was led by Norman Bethune.

With Thérèse Casgrain, Roback fought for woman’s suffrage in Quebec. In the 30’s he worked to establish the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union  ILGWU in Montreal. Roback was uniquely helpful in uniting the garment workers owing to her ability to speak Yiddish, French, and English, and ultimately helped organize 5,000 garment workers who had been on a three-week strike in 1937. 

Roback helped unionize  RCA Victor in 1941, where she remained until 1951. She won the first union contract for women in 1943 but did not want to become a union representative or climb up the union power structure.

In 1960, she played an active role in the organization “Voice of Women” (La Voix des Femmes in Montreal)[5] alongside Madeleine ParentThérèse Casgrain, and Simonne Monet-Chartrand. She denounced the Vietnam war and apartheid in South Africa campaigned against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and was a proponent of free access to a quality education. 

As feminist, she fought to obtain the right to vote, for the right to abortion and access to contraception. Roback also fought for the residents of St-Henri to receive decent housing. 

At the age of 83 in a pouring rain, she participated in the women’s march for pay equity. 

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