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Solidarity with Hamilton Steelworkers

Carolyn Egan

February 1, 2016

Buses from all over Ontario rolled into Hamilton, Ontario on Saturday, January 30 to support workers at US Steel. The company is trying to ride rough shod over the union members, retirees their spouses and the community.

A judge has ruled that the company no longer has to pay benefits to the retirees and their survivors or even pay taxes to the city of Hamilton. It is a case of the robber and the robbed. One more time the courts have taken the side of multinational corporations over the workers who have spent their lives creating the wealth that the shareholders feel is theirs, and only theirs.

United Steelworkers local 1005 has a proud and militant tradition. The historic strike in 1946 put Hamilton on the map as a proud union city. Strikers stood up for themselves and all working people across the country. The residents of the city stood with them, providing food and resources so that the families could outlast the company. 1005 has maintained that tradition through strikes and lock-outs over the years that have called on all of us to stand with them as they fight once again.

They have a strong history of solidarity. A number of years back when workers were locked out by Rio Tinto in Alma, Quebec, Local 1005 as well as Steelworkers from Toronto, drove the 13 hours to support them. It was a French speaking Steelworker local in the heart of sovereigntist Quebec. Most did not speak English, and there were tears in the eyes of many of the Anglophone workers who had come, as well as the five hundred or so locked out workers and their families, who greeted their brothers and sisters from Ontario. In the end the Alma workers won the lock out and beat the company back. They have been vocal in their appreciation of the support from their fellow Steelworkers from Ontario and they returned the solidarity on January 30.

Quebec has just been through the largest one day strike in its history when 400,000 public sector workers went out. The fight back against the austerity agenda has affected the entire working class in the province and the mood is militant. A sense of that was brought to the streets of Hamilton when French flags were raised as we marched through the streets of the city demanding justice.

The climate justice struggle has brought the case for climate jobs to the fore. We need green jobs for all. In Germany the second largest use of steel outside the auto industry is in the production of wind turbines. There is no reason for the steel mills in Hamilton to be shut down. A call has been raised to nationalize US Steel and keep the jobs that have sustained the city of Hamilton for generations.

The benefits that are being ripped out of the hands of the retirees and the thousands of widows who have survived them must be maintained. The courts must rule in support of working people. But we cannot depend on a judge to do it for us, we have to take to the streets again and again and demand that the governments and the company treat these workers with the respect and dignity that they deserve. Local 1005 is a rank-and-file controlled local that has fought courageously and will fight again. We have to stand shoulder to shoulder with these workers showing US Steel that they have to take on the entire working class in this fight. Justice for Hamilton steelworkers!

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