Léon Jouhaux is Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
Léon Jouhaux (July 1, 1879–April 28, 1954) was a French trade union leader who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1951.
Jouhaux's father worked in a match factory in Aubervilliers. His secondary schooling ended when his father's earnings were stopped by a strike. He gained employment at the factory at age sixteen and immediately became an important part of the union. In 1900, Jouhaux joined a strike against the use of the white phosphorus that blinded his father, was dismissed, and worked at a succession of jobs until union influence saw him reinstated.
In 1906, he was elected by the local union as a representative to the Confédération générale du travail, where his abilities saw him quickly rise through the ranks of organized labour. By 1909 he became interim treasurer, and shortly afterwards became secretary-general of the organization, which he held until 1947. His goals as a trade unionist were the familiar ones of the early labour movement — the eight hour day, the right to union representation and collective bargaining, and paid holidays. During the Popular Front, the 1936 Matignon Agreement, to which he was a signatory, awarded many of these rights to French workers.
In the years before World War II, Jouhaux organised several mass protests, and the organization he led protested against the war. However, once the war started, Jouhaux supported his country and believed that a Nazi Germany victory would led to the destruction of democracy in Europe. During the war, he was arrested and imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp.
After the war, Jouhaux split from the CGT to form the social-democrat CGT-FO. In 1951, he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize.
In an international context, his work was instrumental in the setting up of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and was elected to high positions in international trade union bodies, including the International Federation of Trade Unions and its postwar kin the World Federation of Trade Unions until that body split.
On his passing in 1954, Léon Jouhaux was interred in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
One of Jonhaux's most important offices was that of president of the French National Economic Council to which he was elected in 1947. The Economic Council, whose objective was to integrate the economic forces within the structure of France, had long been advocated by Jouhaux. Speaking of Jonhaux's association with the Council, Paul Pisson, the first vice-president, described him as «a creative force», a man «full offervor end vitality», the possessor of a «store of enthusiastic idealism» who had a «ringing voice and expressive manner». It was during a session of the Council that Jouhaux first sustained the symptoms of the heart trouble that was to bring his career to a close. Before he died on April 28, 1954, he was informed that he had been elected to the presidency of the Council for the seventh consecutive time.