As a result of these drastic fluctuations and heavy consolidations in the brewing industry, Local 304 had undergone drastic changes by the 1950’s. It was still based largely in Toronto, but the membership had grown to about 700; the base rate in the brewing industry had increased to about $1.60 per hour, and standard benefits now included group insurance, pension plans, welfare plans, uniforms, vacations, statutory holidays, shift bonuses, and Sunday premiums. Even the business agent had changed. John Corcoran, who had served as business agent since the Local was formed, and as a member of the International General Executive Board since 1908, died in July 1929. John Gavin was elected to take his place as business agent, and to serve on the General Executive Board, which he did until 1956.
The employers had changed drastically too. By 1950 most of the original breweries had gone out of business or amalgamated and a complete new group of companies had taken their places. Canadian Breweries Ltd., owned Canadian Breweries Transport, and two O’Keefe plants, on Simcoe and Victoria Streets, as well as the old Carling plant on Niagara Street. The only other two units in the Local were the Labatt’s plant on King Street, and the Canada Malting plant on Fleet and Bathurst Streets.
It was not a period for tremendous wage gains by any means. In 1950, Canadian Breweries was offering a three-cent per hour increase and finally agreed to a nickel. The Local won two extra statutory holidays that year but the normal workday was still ten hours in a forty-hour week. The year 1951 was not too much better. Canadian Breweries was offering four cents, although they finally settled for fifteen cents. Canada Malting by contrast was still offering three cents in 1955.
Still the affairs of the Local moved slowly ahead. In 1952 it was one of the first Unions in Canada to hold a mail ballot for the election of officers and there was a small celebration to mark the Local’s 50th anniversary. In 1955, the Local organized the newly constructed Molson plant on Lakeshore Boulevard, and managed to persuade the Company to extend a voluntary recognition and bargain for a collective agreement without the necessity of seeking a certification certificate.
The Local underwent another major change in 1955 also, Brother Gavin, who had served as business agent since 1929, retired at the end of his term after 26 years in office. Peter O’Dowd was elected in his place. It might well be noted that when Brother O’Dowd resigned as business agent to become full-time President of the National Union in 1976, his twenty-one years in that office was the shortest term ever for a Local 304 business agent.