'Huguette was a trailblazer. She spent her whole adult life fighting for fairness and defending the interests of working families.'
Ottawa (12 Jan. 2011) - Huguette Plamondon was a pioneer in the Canadian labour movement who embodied a new generation of working women when her long career as an activist began just after the Second World War.
Plamondon started as a secretary in the Montreal office of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) in 1945 and went on to dedicate more than five decades of her life to improving the lives of working families and breaking down barriers for women in Canada.
As a young woman new to the labour force, Plamondon found herself embroiled in a major strike that involved Canada's entire meatpacking industry. Motivated by a strong belief in social justice, she became an ardent supporter of the workers on the line, leading pickets and becoming a source of inspiration and encouragement to her sisters and brothers. She was just 21 years old at the time.
Because she possessed a rare combination of intelligence, passion and eloquence, she rose rapidly through labour ranks, making history at almost every step of the way.
Plamondon was elected president of the Montreal Labour Council in 1955 – the first Canadian woman to lead a major labour organization. A year later, she became the first woman in Canada to achieve a national union executive position when she was elected a vice-president of the newly formed Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
In 1961, she played a small but vital role in the history of Canadian politics by nominating Tommy Douglas as the first leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) at the party's founding convention.
Subsequently, Plamondon served as an international vice-president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the union that succeeded the UPWA. She also served as an executive assistant to the national UFCW director for many years. For many years she was also president of UFCW Canada Local 744P in Quebec.
Plamondon, who passed away last Sept. 29 following a heart attack in Montreal, was 84. She was married to national labour leader Roméo Mathieu, who died in 1989.
UFCW Canada expressed sadness upon learning the news of her death.
"Huguette was a trailblazer," said Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada. "She spent her whole adult life fighting for fairness and defending the interests of working families. She was a champion for UFCW Canada women and their sisters in the broader labour movement and beyond. Her efforts made a lasting difference and we will always be grateful for her tremendous legacy.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE