May 25, 2017

Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!

Stand with Stelco Workers and Retirees Facing a Difficult Situation


Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
Stand with Stelco Workers and Retirees Facing a Difficult Situation
U.S. Steel Found Guilty in Death of Steelworker at Gary Works

28th Constitutional Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress
Pressing Need to Organize Working Class Institutions with Their Own Outlook and Aim
Consolidating the Limitations on the Workers' Movement - K.C. Adams
Developments at the Convention

Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!

Stand with Stelco Workers and Retirees
Facing a Difficult Situation

Time for a new direction for the steel economy

The ruling oligarchs who own and control the vast majority of social wealth in Fortress North America along with the Ontario provincial and federal governments and Ontario Superior Court have conspired to attack the rights of active and retired Stelco steelworkers, salaried employees and Canada's steel sector and economy.

Stelco's productive facilities in Hamilton and Nanticoke, Ontario are to switch ownership and control from one group of oligarchs to another while under state control of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). The exchange of ownership and control is said to be necessary because the current direction of the economy where private interests own and control social productive property cannot sort out its problems other than by depriving the actual producers, the steelworkers and salaried employees, of what is theirs by right, and by denying the social responsibilities of those in control towards the environment, public services, surrounding communities and economy.

The change of ownership and control amongst the ruling oligarchs does nothing to address the problems at Stelco or the steel sector, which require renewal away from the existing competitive anarchy of production, pricing and sales. The present intractable problems emerge from the contradiction of private competitive ownership and control of the completely socialized interrelated productive forces that require cooperation and overall scientific planning to succeed without recurring crises.

Hamilton steelworkers from USW Local 1005 have long pointed out that the current direction of competitive anarchy in production, pricing and sales, and lack of scientific planning for nation-building needs to be addressed with a new direction. Despite the recurring crises of bankruptcy and wrecking of productive forces, the ruling oligarchs have consistently refused to discuss or entertain a new direction because they sense in that a loss of their privilege, social wealth, power and control. Instead, they use the power of their accumulated social wealth and control of the state and its governments, media and universities to deprive the working class of a voice, say, control or even any means to discuss broadly amongst the people and prepare public opinion for a new direction for the economy and specifically the steel sector.

The ruling oligarchs and their state are conspiring through the CCAA to transfer social wealth to them that belongs to the Stelco working class, salaried employees and steel communities by right. This transfer of social wealth is to occur outside of and in contradiction to existing legal collective agreements, contracts, and provincial government labour and pension laws. Using the unbridled lawless power of the state, they are forcing an exit from CCAA that removes pensions and other retiree benefits from Stelco's balance sheets, which will effectively deny retirees a claim on the new value that Stelco steelworkers produce. Once exited from CCAA, and without a claim on the continuing value Stelco workers produce, the pensions and other retiree benefits will be left seriously underfunded in terms of meeting the legally promised payments. In addition, the oligarchs have stripped defined-benefit pensions and other post-employment benefits from all new workers and want to eliminate their cost of living adjustments.

The exit from state control under CCAA also proposes to sanction a form of discrimination that would seem repugnant to most Canadians. Retirees from Stelco's Lake Erie Works will be paid 100 per cent of their other post-employment benefits for 20 years while their fellow retirees from Stelco's Hamilton Works will be paid 52 per cent of their promised and legally contracted post-employment benefits for just 5 years.

For over 50 years, steelworkers and salaried employees have contracted pensions and other post-employment benefits as part of their terms of employment at Stelco. Many if not most workers stayed at Stelco for decades because of the legitimate expectation that their pensions and other benefits were guaranteed in law. Successive provincial governments of all three cartel political parties long assured the workers that their pensions and other benefits were guaranteed in law, and besides they said, Stelco and later U.S. Steel were too big to fail. This has been exposed as lies and deception to serve the narrow private interests of the ruling oligarchs.

The transfer of social wealth to the oligarchs upon exiting CCAA does not stop with the attack on workers and salaried employees. The oligarchs seizing Stelco's ownership and control are conspiring to deprive the communities and society of a claim on newly produced social wealth to fund environmental remediation and the public services and social programs that any modern society requires.

Industrial mass production of steel has been ongoing for over 100 years on what is now 325 hectares of Stelco land in Hamilton along the shoreline. Obviously, those lands need extensive environmental remediation. The exit from CCAA proposes one-third of the 325 hectares at the Hamilton site will be leased to the new oligarchs in control of Stelco, while the rest of the heavily polluted land will go into a provincial land trust. The land trust is to be held responsible for environmental remediation of the land but will not have access to new value Stelco steelworkers produce. The oligarchs seizing control will also not be responsible for existing environmental damage of the one-third of the Stelco land they are to lease for purposes of continuing production. The Stelco CCAA exit plan says the oligarchs seizing control are only responsible for any new pollution or damage to the land caused after exiting CCAA. How this farce would be determined is anyone's guess.

Separating environmental remediation, public services and social programs from the value workers produce in the present is simply a means for the ruling oligarchs to inflate their claim for private profit. In this way, the oligarchs stand opposed to humanizing the social and natural environment, which is the historic trend of the modern era.

The Stelco CCAA exit is based on gangster logic in defiance of any rule of law fit for modern people. The working class refuses to work in such a lawless atmosphere where the ruling oligarchs can simply refuse to honour contracted arrangements. Workers cannot be expected to work under terms of employment with oligarchs and their state who behave no better than gangsters in defiance of a government of laws.

For the sole aim to enrich the few and serve their bloated private social wealth, privilege and empire-building, the ruling oligarchs and their state refuse to uphold the agreements they have made in the past within a rule of law. They refuse to take seriously their social responsibilities to humanize the social and natural environment. They refuse to deal seriously with the anarchy and crisis-ridden nature of the current direction of the economy and step aside so that the working class can freely discuss and implement a new direction for the steel sector that does not attack the actual producers both active and retired but rather finds and implements a new direction that solves problems and upholds a modern aim of nation-building to serve the well-being of the people and guarantee their rights and the general interests of society.

Hamilton workers and retirees and their allies led by USW Local 1005 have rejected the CCAA exit plan with a defiant No! Means No! The oligarchs and their state machine and media are determined to push it through one way or the other in defiance of the rights of all, and in contradiction with the historic trend towards the new and a government of laws that recognizes and upholds the rights of all.

Canadians should be outraged by this difficult situation Stelco workers and retirees face, and stand shoulder to shoulder with them in demanding justice and their rights.

Stand with Stelco workers, retirees, the steel communities and Canadian economy for justice and in defence of the rights of all!

The Gangsterism of the Oligarchs Must Not Pass!
No! to the Unjust CCAA Exit Plan!
No! Means No!

Haut de page

U.S. Steel Found Guilty in Death of
Steelworker at Gary Works

Steelworkers rally at Gary Indiana, August 26, 2016, protesting contract violations and unsafe
working conditions, following electrocution death of steelworker at the plant in June.

The Indiana Department of Labor has found U.S. Steel guilty of two serious safety violations at Gary Works that resulted in the death of 30-year-old steelworker Jonathan Arrizola last September. U.S. Steel failed to provide adequate safety training for Jonathan and others, and neglected to protect workers against live electrical equipment. Even though the state agency found these violations led to Jonathan's death, the maximum penalty prescribed by statute is $7,000 on each count.

No individual in executive management was held to account for Jonathan's death or for a similar electrocution death of Gary Works' steelworker Charles Kremke just three months earlier in June. The local union and others believe the deaths are a result of U.S. Steel's criminal Carnegie Way campaign to reduce investments in the workforce, maintenance and the overall renewal of the productive forces. These cutbacks have been widely criticized as self-serving ways for executive managers to prettify U.S. Steel's accounts while crippling its productive capacity at a time when demand for steel has rebounded.

Steelworkers say that Carnegie Way cutbacks in maintenance staffing at Gary Works played a significant role in the two workplace deaths. Prior to the electrocution of Charles Kremke last June, union officials had raised concerns that maintenance workers were being pressed into roving work gangs and pushed to hurry through repairs in unfamiliar areas of the sprawling facility. Gary Works stretches 11.5 kilometres along the shore of Lake Michigan comprised of production facilities one after another with intersecting rail tracks and roadways.

Steelworkers have launched protests and grievances over the outsourcing of maintenance work, layoffs of in-house maintenance workers, elimination of training programs, lack of proper regular maintenance and forced overtime of remaining workers.

Indiana's Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation of Jonathan's death found that maintenance workers were performing repairs to the 501 crane in the slab yard while three collector rails were live, exposing the workers to electrical hazards. "Qualified persons shall at a minimum be trained in and familiar with the skills and techniques necessary to distinguish exposed live parts from other parts of electrical equipment," the finding reads. "Protective shields, protective barriers or insulating materials were not used to protect each employee from shocks, burns, or other electrically related injuries while that employee was working near exposed energized parts."

A Gary Works' steelworker told local media last October that maintenance crews are so short-staffed that preventive maintenance is not being performed. Maintenance workers are also receiving only minimal training after being transferred and required to work on some of the most dangerous jobs, which require heavy lifting and exposure to high temperatures. Workers are being moved within the plant to work on unfamiliar jobs before they have had a chance to complete training programs, because the company has shut down those programs. Remaining maintenance workers are being forced to work double shifts on irregular schedules that change with only three days' notice, all of which creates dangerous unhealthy working conditions. The cuts are putting workers at risk by putting off preventative maintenance and causing repair work orders to pile up. Jonathan's death was a terrible outcome of the attacks on workers' rights and the deterioration of working conditions at North America's largest steel mill.

Jonathan was a member of USW Local 1066 and worked in a four-member crew of maintenance welders in the Gary hot strip mill. He has left behind his wife and two young children. His widow Whitney told local media that Jonathan was highly critical of the deteriorating conditions at the mill where after layoffs the remaining maintenance workers are working 70 to 90 hours a week in unfamiliar areas. Whitney said her husband and other workers had major concerns about safety at the plant and the dangers they were facing. "This shouldn't have to happen to anyone," she told local media. "Please help keep this from happening to others. I cannot even begin to explain the hole in my heart."

Workers' Forum extends its deepest sympathies to Jonathan and Charles' families, friends and coworkers. The ongoing slaughter of workers in the U.S. and Canada is a serious indictment of an economic system that cannot solve its problems and instead lashes out at the rights of workers and attacks them as a "cost of production," demanding concessions, and cutting corners on basic essentials and conditions at the workplace.

The time is now for a new direction for the economy that puts the human factor/social consciousness at the centre of all considerations.

All out June 1 in Toronto and other locations for Injured Workers Day!

All Out for Ontario Injured Workers' Day June 1!


Haut de page

28th Constitutional Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress

Pressing Need to Organize Working Class
Institutions with Their Own Outlook and Aim

The Canadian Labour Congress held its 28th Constitutional Convention from May 8 to May 12 in Toronto. Over 3,000 delegates from affiliated unions, Labour Councils and Federations of Labour participated. International guests and observers also attended the convention.

The CLC Convention was a reminder of the potential power that lies in this collective of workers from all sectors of the economy. This is a power that could be mobilized and put in motion through organized campaigns and actions with analysis to become a formidable force to defend the rights of all.

Workers' Forum participated in the Convention and talked to delegates about the problems they are facing and the struggles they are waging to defend their rights. In this issue, Workers' Forum reports on the convention and in future issues it will continue to smash the silence on the workers' working conditions, demands and fights in defence of their rights and the rights of all.

The convention took up the theme "Together for a Fair Future," with sub-themes of fairness, equity, green jobs and organizing to strengthen Canada's unions. The convention was organized around four policy papers: Working for a Fair Future, Equity for a Fair Future, Green Jobs for a Fair Future, and Organizing for a Fair Future. Panels of experts along with resolutions on particular topics accompanied the four policy papers.

The Fair Future theme refers to the Fairness Works campaign that the CLC has pursued for several years. Introduced during the Harper years, the theme is meant to demonstrate the social relevance of unions to Canadians and organized workers. The CLC said the campaign was in response to the anti-social offensive and the slanders of the ruling circles to discredit unions as outdated and serving only special interests.

According to the CLC, the aim of the Fairness Works campaign is to convince society and workers themselves that unions are working for a social good. Unions and their political allies are presented as architects of social programs such as health care, parental leave, and others that are enjoyed by all Canadians.

The Fairness Works campaign as described and presented is said to mobilize workers around immediate demands to alleviate certain ills of society and at the workplace, and the worst abuses of the anti-social offensive. The campaign was never meant to inspire and organize workers to defend the rights of all and open a path towards their political and social empowerment, control of the socialized economy and eventual emancipation from social class oppression.

Separating the demands for relief from abuse of the anti-social offensive and at the workplace from the aim of the working class movement for empowerment and emancipation from social class oppression makes the Fairness Works campaign weak and ineffective and acceptable to the ruling imperialist elite. To reduce the working class movement to a campaign for fairness when those in power are trampling on the rights of all and rampaging around the world interfering in the sovereign affairs of others and engaging in war misses the mark by a large margin.

The ruling imperialist elite are only too happy to have a debate over what is fair in exploiting and oppressing the working class. In this way every issue is reduced to finding some sort of fair balance rather than upholding rights and guaranteeing the well-being of all. A debate or discussion over what is fair never touches the crucial questions of who controls and in whose class interest the economic and political decisions are taken and who in particular is favoured. When these fundamental questions are introduced, the working class begins to formulate an organized conscious plan and outlook to deprive the ruling imperialist elite of its power to decide and to reduce issues to what they consider are fair limits of social class exploitation and oppression.

The working class through consciously organized actions with analysis to defend its rights begins to see that the path forward is not to debate fairness of what the ruling imperialist elite are doing and proposing to do, but to deprive them of their power to block the working class from solving social problems and from directing and reorganizing the economy and political affairs in a new pro-social direction that guarantees the rights and well-being of all and opens a path to empowerment and emancipation. How to accomplish the task of depriving the ruling imperialist elite of its power to deprive the working class of its rights and block it from opening a path forward must become the preoccupation of the working class and its organized activities and institutions.

Haut de page

Consolidating the Limitations on the
Workers' Movement

An aspect the of CLC Convention's discussion on the Fairness Works campaign is that instead of removing the limitations the bourgeoisie imposes on the workers' movement, it contributes to keep them in place. The campaign was not summed up within a spirit of objectivity of consideration. Instead, it consolidated the limitation of the working class movement using the election of U.S. President Trump as proof of the importance of a defeatist position. The CLC convention discussed Trump's election as a sign of rising intolerance and backwardness, including even amongst workers themselves, and a lack of a sense of fairness in the behaviour of people, its leaders and society generally.

According to this view, equity and fairness are urgent to correct the behaviour of all and to prevent society and workers from "turning to the right." This approach does not recognize and target the social class objective conditions and base of North American society and specifically the imperialist class nature of the ruling elite and their state. It fails to expose the all-sided crisis in which the economic and political system and ruling class are mired. An approach focussing on the behaviour of the ruling elite and to an extent the behaviour of the working people takes the working class movement away from organizing itself based on the concrete conditions with objective definable goals and institutions to defend its specific class interests, rights and aim of empowerment and emancipation, and to arm itself with its own independent outlook and politics, and expose and counter the increasing state repression of people's rights, predatory wars and preparations for a catastrophic inter-imperialist war.

Workers across the U.S. unite to defend rights on May Day 2017. Shown here, Los Angeles.

The Fairness Works campaign takes the objective and subjective weakness of the working class movement as an excuse not to take up the task to turn the situation around by objectively and subjectively building the independent working class movement and its institutions. Instead it accepts and perpetuates the historical weakness.

The subjective and limited approach of the campaign begins from what the ruling imperialist elite are organizing, doing and thinking. It does not develop the initiative of the workers to take the lead to provide a new independent pro-social direction to economic and political affairs and the workers own thinking and outlook, which necessarily develops when they take up conscious organized class struggle on both the subjective and objective fronts.

To be effective and inspiring, the immediate struggle to defend the rights of all from the abuse of the anti-social offensive at work and generally in society must not be separated from the general aim of the working class movement for empowerment and emancipation from social class oppression, and to establish control over those affairs that affect workers' lives. Working class struggle must be put in the context of sorting out a way forward that is favourable to the working people, defends their rights, and strengthens their independent outlook, social consciousness, organization and institutions.

Haut de page

Developments at the Convention

Elections for CLC Officers

The Convention elected the four executive officers of the CLC to three-year terms. Hassan Yussuff was acclaimed for a second term as CLC President. Marie Clarke Walker, who until the election was Executive Vice-President of the Congress, was elected Secretary-Treasurer. Barb Byers had announced her retirement as Secretary-Treasurer prior to the Convention. Donald Lafleur was re-elected as one of the two Executive Vice-Presidents along with Larry Rousseau as the other. Rousseau is Regional Executive Vice President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada for the National Capital Region. His election as a CLC officer was his first.

Issues Raised in Speeches and Discussion

During the week, delegates made many eloquent speeches calling for the CLC to put its full weight behind the struggles of workers to block the anti-social nation-wrecking offensive of the ruling elite, which is creating chaos in peoples' lives. Delegates made passionate calls for mass campaigns to defend public services and social programs and against privatization of public services and assets.

Hydro One Privatization Opposed

An intervention was made in opposition to the Ontario Liberal government's privatization of Hydro One, the province's electricity transmission and distribution utility. Ontario Hydro is a public asset that belongs to the people of Ontario, the delegate said, and is a necessary feature for nation-building. Others explained what work is being done in Ontario to defeat this privatization, including mass actions and a misfeasance lawsuit against the Premier and other Ministers for wrong-doing in the sale of shares in Hydro One.

Trudeau's Imperialist Infrastructure Bank

A resolution was adopted unanimously to oppose privatization of public infrastructure including in the form of the Infrastructure Bank being developed by the Trudeau government. The resolution calls for infrastructure investments that are publicly funded and administered with the resulting infrastructure publicly owned and operated. Delegates intervened to demand that the federal government abandon the retrogressive Infrastructure Bank scheme. They argued for forms of public financing such as the revitalization of the Bank of Canada, which could provide interest-free loans to all levels of government and have the principal paid back into the state treasury for use again and again. They stressed the point that alternatives to infrastructure financing from the financial oligarchy can and must be found.

Maritime Workers Denounce Emerson Report

Maritime workers addressed the Convention regarding their demands that the federal government must not adopt the Canada Transportation Act Review Report (Emerson Report). The previous Harper government commissioned the report that advocates further deregulation and privatization of transportation services and infrastructure, including ports and airports. The Emerson Report also calls for the dismantling of cabotage regulations. This backward step would create huge losses of livelihoods for maritime workers and communities and worsen working conditions in the maritime sector.

They informed delegates of the actions that were held simultaneously in St. John's, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria and Prince Rupert on January 12 by sailors, and longshore and ferry workers against the imperialist sell-out called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.

They described their work, which includes meetings with MPs who know next to nothing about the maritime sector, and asking them to look into the issue and take a stand in favour of maritime workers and communities. They also engage in ongoing mass actions across the country to raise the awareness of the public on these issues.

Emergency Resolution from Teamsters

Near the conclusion of the Convention an emergency resolution from Teamsters Canada workers made it to the floor calling for a CLC campaign to defeat Transport Canada's planned legislation to allow open access of the railway oligopolies to data captured on video and voice recorders installed on locomotive engines. The data are currently protected by law and provided only to the Transportation Safety Board for investigation in case of accidents.

Railway and aviation workers spoke to the resolution to denounce the federal Liberal government's plan as a breach of privacy rights that will weaken the expectations of privacy for all workers and all Canadians, and as a way to increase surveillance for purposes of intimidating and disciplining workers. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

Call to Defeat Pension-Wrecking Bill C-27

Militant interventions were made and resolutions passed on other important issues such as the need for a mass CLC campaign for the withdrawal of Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985. This federal legislation would allow employers to undermine defined-benefit pensions and replace them with target-benefit (TB) plans that reduce the value employers contribute and eliminate their obligation to maintain and provide a guaranteed level of benefits to retirees. With TB plans, the legal requirement for employers to fund, maintain and guarantee pension plan benefits would be removed.

Delegates declared that Bill C-27 represents a broad attack on Canadians' right to security in retirement. Speeches recalled that Finance Minister Bill Morneau is the architect of this anti-worker measure. As President of the consulting firm Morneau Sheppell, he campaigned for the dismantling of the defined benefits pension plans of New Brunswick public sector workers. He has since become Federal Finance Minister and is using his position to push the private interests of his company and the financial oligarchy against the broad interests of Canadians. CLC President Hassan Yussuff pledged that the Canadian Labour Congress will put its full weight behind the mobilization of workers to defeat Bill C-27.

Important Resolutions Passed

A resolution demanded Canada recognize and implement Indigenous peoples' inherent sovereign right to self-determination.

A resolution demanded that the living standard of workers in precarious employment be immediately raised through a hike of the minimum wage to $15 and by changing labour laws to recognize their right to paid sick days, vacation time etc. Precarious non-standard employment is becoming rampant, including even amongst unionized workers, and is hitting women, youth and national minorities with a vengeance. The delegates declared their intention to fight for the rights of workers in precarious employment and against the practice itself.

The Convention held a street party in downtown Toronto at lunch time on May 11, to push the demand of an end to precarious non-standard employment and to oppose racist attacks against the people, singling out Islamophobia at this time.

Street party and rally at CLC convention, May 11, 2017.

Haut de page


Website:   Email: