Joan M. Roberts served as a union organizer for the phone operators at Bell Canada. She later worked as a development consultant for the Labour Council Development Foundation. She has also served as a city councillor. Currently, she runs a training and consulting practice. She lives in Toronto.
2015 Ontario Historical Society Alison Prentice Award — Winner
2016 Heritage Toronto Book Award — Nominated
The story of the Bell Canada union drive and the phone operator strike that brought sweeping reform to women’s workplace rights.
In the 1970s, Bell Canada was Canada’s largest corporation. It employed thousands of people, including a large number of women who worked as operators and endured very poor pay and working conditions. Joan Roberts, a former operator, tells the story of how she and a group of dedicated labour organizers helped to initiate a campaign to unionize Bell Canada’s operators.
From the point of view of the workers and the organizers, Roberts tells an important story in Canada’s labour history. The unionization of Bell Canada’s operators was a huge victory for Canada’s working women. The victory at Bell established new standards for women in other so-called “pink-collar” jobs.
Roberts’s book is a timely reminder of the risks and rewards of a truly grassroots, democratic and inclusive House of Labour.