Rowley, Robert Kent

Robert Kent Rowley, (b at Montréal 25 Oct 1917; d at Toronto 5 Feb 1978). Rowley became a union leader at age 17, and after spending 2½ years in jail (1940-42) for opposing military registration, he became Canadian director for the United Textile Workers of America (AFL affil) and received a 6-month jail term for initiating an allegedly illegal strike at Valleyfield, Qué (now Salaberry-de-Valleyfield), in 1946. In 1952 Rowley and his future wife, Madeleine PARENT, were fired by the UTWA for their alleged but in fact nonexistent ties with communism. Angry with American interference in Canadian sections of international unions, they began to organize all-Canadian unions and worked particularly hard to organize unorganized workers in small plants. Rowley was instrumental in establishing the CONFEDERATION OF CANADIAN UNIONS in 1968 and became its secretary-treasurer. Though the CCU remained small, its critique of American unionism contributed to a spate of breakaway movements in the 1970s and 1980s.