Pedestrians on Stanley St. walk by heaps of garbage on March 2, 1986 during a strike by Montreal blue collar workers. The photo was published March 3, 1986.
John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette
March 3, 1986 saw Montreal in the midst of a strike by the city’s 4,200 blue-collar workers. This photo by John Mahoney, published on the Montreal Gazette’s front page that day, shows pedestrians on Stanley St. north of Ste-Catherine St. walking along the relatively narrow part of the sidewalk not covered by uncollected garbage.The workers had been on strike since Feb. 12. A key issue in the dispute was the city’s use of private contractors for work formerly done by the blue-collars. The union was seeking a guarantee from the city that the work force would not go any lower than 3,900.The lack of garbage collection had merchants fuming, we reported. One restaurateur said the situation was particularly unfair, because although he was having his restaurant’s garbage picked up regularly, the eyesore outside his business was discouraging customers: ” ‘Our sales have gone down,’ he told us. ‘If the weather gets warm, then we’ll really have trouble.’ ”Opposition city councillors affiliated with the Montreal Citizens’ Movement were pressing Mayor Jean Drapeau and his team to try harder to reach a settlement, we reported. The MCM’s deputy leader, Michael Fainstat, accused the city of dragging its feet to save money: “One reason the city is slow to settle with blue-collar workers is that it is saving $300,000 to $400,000 a day in wages,” Fainstat said.The strike lasted 36 days, ending when the provincial government ordered the workers back to work for failing to provide adequate essential services.On March 20, we reported that the workers had begun returning to their jobs. Cleaning up the 800 tons of garbage that had accumulated was a top priority for the city, along with filling potholes and repairing water mains.The following June, the provincial government reinstated the workers’ right to strike, but workers stayed on the job. The union seems to have calculated that its interests lay in waiting for after the November municipal elections, which it evidently hoped would bring the more friendly MCM, led by Jean Doré, to power, as indeed they did. A new contract guaranteeing 4,000 jobs was reached two months later.
The uncropped photo.
John Mahoney /