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 â€” Winner
2016 Heritage Toronto Book Award â€” Nominated
The story of the Bell Canada union drive and the phone operator strike that brought sweeping reform to womenâ€™s workplace rights.
In the 1970s, Bell Canada was Canadaâ€™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 Canadaâ€™s operators.
From the point of view of the workers and the organizers, Roberts tells an important story in Canadaâ€™s labour history. The unionization of Bell Canadaâ€™s operators was a huge victory for Canadaâ€™s working women. The victory at Bell established new standards for women in other so-called â€śpink-collarâ€ť jobs.
Robertsâ€™s book is a timely reminder of the risks and rewards of a truly grassroots, democratic and inclusive House of Labour.