Shirley Carr | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Shirley Carr

Shirley Carr, OC, O Ont, union officer (born in Niagara Falls, ON; died 24 June 2010 in Niagara Falls, ON).
Shirley Carr, political activist
Shirley Carr was the first woman to head Canada's largest union, CUPE (courtesy CUPE).

​Shirley Carr, OC, O Ont, union officer (born in Niagara Falls, ON; died 24 June 2010 in Niagara Falls, ON). In 1960, Carr became a union activist, serving in several executive positions in Local 133, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). In 1970, she was instrumental in the formation of a CUPE local representing employees of the Regional Municipality of Niagara and was the local's president until 1974. From 1967 she was an active officer of the Ontario Division of CUPE and at the national level she was elected regional and then general vice-president of the union. She became an executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in 1974 and replaced Dennis McDermott as president after being elected unanimously on 1 May 1986. She was the first woman and the first candidate with a public-service background to hold that top position.

Carr's rise to leadership reflected the growth in membership and influence of these two constituencies in the labour movement as it adapted to a changing economy with larger public and service sectors. As CLC president Carr built coalitions with community groups, which reflected a new approach for the Congress. Ties with the New Democratic Party were strengthened under her leadership and its labour vote increased. In the international arena, as a member of the governing body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) from 1980 to 1985 and to which she returned in 1991, she opposed apartheid and was a defender of equity and human rights in repressive regimes in countries around the world. Carr served two terms as president of the CLC until she stepped down in 1992.


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