Contracting Masculinity

Contracting Masculinity: Gender, Class, and Race in a White-Collar Union, 1944-1994

Gillian Creese
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt1287skc
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  • Book Info
    Contracting Masculinity
    Book Description:

    InContracting Masculinity, Gillian Creese examines in depth the white-collar office workers union at BC Hydro, and shows how collective bargaining involves the negotiation of gender, class, and race.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5987-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. v-vii)
  4. Introduction: Gender, Race, and Clerical Work
    (pp. 1-7)

    Anyone who has ever worked in an office can attest to the high degree of gender segregation in most office environments. The first job I had after graduating from high school in the early 1970s was as an accounts payable clerk in a large heavy equipment company. I was surrounded by hundreds of other women, at that time mostly young women like myself; some of the women I worked with remained in the same company more than two decades later. We worked in a huge open space, with desks arranged by departments, and separated by rows of filing cabinets and...

  5. 1 Who Gets Ahead at the Office?
    (pp. 8-33)

    John worked in a large public-sector utility company in western Canada for more than 35 years. When he first started with British Columbia Electric in 1952 it was privately owned. In the early 1960s it was nationalized by the provincial government and expanded province-wide to become British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority. John’s career was fairly typical of men in the fifties and sixties. His first job was as a meter reader, the most common entrylevel job for men. As a meter reader John was a member of the Office Employees’ Association (later renamed the Office and Professional Employees’ International...

  6. 2 Becoming a Union: A Brief History of Local 378
    (pp. 34-55)

    In 1921 the office employees at the British Columbia Electric Railway Company (BC Electric), a Canadian power company servicing the growing populations of Vancouver and Victoria, formed an association to ‘enhance the mutual welfare’ of the company and the company’s employees.¹ There were nearly 3,000 employees at BC Electric in 1921,² including blue-collar craftsmen installing and maintaining the electrical systems, men working on the street railway, and men and women performing a wide range of office work. The first two groups were unionized under the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (ibew ) and the Street Railway Union (sru), respectively, and...

  7. 3 Normalizing Breadwinner Rights
    (pp. 56-85)

    The period of postwar economic expansion in Canada greatly increased the demand for office workers and opened up new employment opportunities for women. As Table 5 shows, not only did the number of clerical jobs expand in the 1940s, but these jobs were also in the process of feminization.² In 1941 male clerical workers outnumbered female clerical workers by a considerable margin: nearly 60 per cent of clerical workers were male. Within 10 years these numbers were reversed, with females comprising almost 60 per cent of clerical workers. The number of women employed in clerical work more than doubled in...

  8. 4 Transforming Clerical Work into Technical Work
    (pp. 86-133)

    With the exception of women’s recent entry into management the gender division of labour at the utility company has changed little over the last 50 years. As we saw in Chapter 1 gender divisions in the 1990s are such that most work remains male-dominated. Men perform a broad range of jobs, including blue-collar or manual labour, white-collar office work, and management and professional engineering. In contrast, women are seldom employed in the blue-collar trades or as engineers. Moreover, even the entry of women into management has been slow. For the most part women’s work remains within the office.

    The general...

  9. 5 Can Feminism Be Union Made?
    (pp. 134-162)

    Women were a strong presence in the oteu from its inception at the end of World War II. Until fairly recently, however, union leadership was dominated by men, especially men in the higher technical positions, and union policies and priorities were shaped largely through men’s experiences. Masculine privilege was explicit in the postwar years, as the union appealed to the responsibilities of breadwinners as the basis for men’s right to better jobs and higher wages. These arguments receded over time, replaced by neutral language about equality and workers’ rights. By then, however, masculinist assumptions were normalized elements of bargaining strategies,...

  10. 6 Restructuring, Resistance, and the Politics of Equity
    (pp. 163-201)

    The 1980s marked a period of dramatic change for office workers at BC Hydro. Under the twin influences of neo-liberal economic policies adopted by both federal and provincial levels of government and corporate demands for restructuring, downsizing, and flexibility, office workers saw their conditions of work deteriorate. Job security and expected career mobility evaporated in the midst of massive layoffs and the casualization of the workforce. Regressive labour legislation and conservative fiscal policies underlay demands on public-sector workers for increased productivity and flexibility, while placing labour firmly on the defensive.

    Paradoxically, these trends coincided with the feminization of the union...

  11. 7 Learning from the Past, Re-visioning the Future
    (pp. 202-220)

    Office workers at BC Hydro have negotiated their conditions of work for over half a century. A more conventional labour history, as in Chapter 2, might offer an assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of organizing drives, strikes, bargaining strategies, and accomplishments, understood in terms of the union’s ability to expand its membership, negotiate strong collective agreements, and enforce these agreements in the workplace. However, most conventional labour history and industrial relations research have not engendered male subjects or expressed much interest in ‘the experiences of women, as workers or as trade unionists’.¹ For most scholars, the racialized and...

  12. Appendix: Reflections on Methodology
    (pp. 221-225)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 226-265)
  14. Index
    (pp. 266-278)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-280)