May 31, 2021 - No. 51

Significant Strike at Fermont ArcelorMittal Mining Complex

Broad Support for ArcelorMittal Workers

The Fight for Rights Is a Fight for Life - K.C. Adams

Significant Strike at Fermont ArcelorMittal Mining Complex

Broad Support for ArcelorMittal Workers

Workers from across Quebec rally at ArcelorMittal's Canadian headquarters
in Longueuil, May 21, 2021

Support for the ArcelorMittal workers on strike at ArcelorMittal's facilities on Quebec's North Shore since May 10 is coming from throughout Quebec and beyond.

ArcelorMittal workers in "the South" -- the Montreal and Montérégie regions -- have pledged ongoing support to the striking workers.

In the first week of the strike, Steelworkers' locals from five ArcelorMittal operations in Contrecoeur, Longueuil and Montreal sent $14,000 and announced that members of these locals will continue making donations to the strikers for the duration of the labour dispute. These locals are: Locals 6586 and 8060 at the Contrecoeur East steel plant; Local 6586-2 at the Contrecoeur-Feruni recycling and processing facility; Local 6951 at the Contrecoeur West steel plant; Local 8897 at the Longueuil steel plant and Local 9399 at the Saint-Patrick facility.

"The strike by our brothers and sisters is a courageous struggle to ensure that a fair portion of ArcelorMittal's astronomical profits is returned to the Quebec economy," said Yves Rolland, President of Steelworkers Local 6951 and spokesperson for the Comité de solidarité de l'acier (Steel Solidarity Committee). We stand in solidarity with the people of the North and will support them financially throughout this dispute. We will also be there to support them in the streets," Rolland said.

"We have the same employer as our brothers and sisters in the North. They extract our natural resources in the North and we provide the value-added processing and manufacturing in our plants in the South. Their battle for respect and for economic benefits for Quebec is our battle," he added.

The striking ArcelorMittal workers also received a pledge of recurrent financial support from United Steelworkers' Local 5795 representing the workers at the Iron Ore Company of Canada's (IOC) Labrador West operations. In its message to the striking workers, Local 5795 says that "With great pride, Local 5795 membership voted on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 during our regular monthly meeting to donate to Metallos 5778, one dollar per member for each week they remain on strike. They appreciate your support beyond measure." This refers to the support, including financial support, the ArcelorMittal North Shore workers provided to the Labrador workers during their nine-week strike in the spring of 2018. That fight was against concessionary demands, including transforming some of the workers into a temporary work force with inferior conditions, and for improvements in wages, and medical and pension benefits.

On May 20, representatives of USW Local 9344, representing IOC workers in Sept-Îles, went to the ArcelorMittal picket line in Port-Cartier to support the strikers. They handed over a cheque for $5,000 to the strikers and announced that they will donate $10 per member per month, or $3,400, for the duration of the conflict.

"We may work for employers who are in competition with each other, but we mining workers are all steelworkers, we are North Shore residents, we all care about the economy and the vitality of our region. The slogan of the ArcelorMittal brothers' and sisters' strike, The Resources from Here for the Economy Here also illustrates our reality very well," said Eddy Wright, president of Local 9344.

At a demonstration at ArcelorMittal's Canadian headquarters in Longueuil on May 21, Jason Braconnier, a representative of Local 6586 at the Contrecoeur East plant, announced that the workers held a special meeting where they decided to provide $10 per worker per week to striking workers from the first day of the strike until it ends. He reminded the participants that ArcelorMittal workers' locals signed a solidarity pact with each other in 2015 and this recurring financial support is a way for members to honour it. Mario Brin, a representative of USW Local 9449, which represents workers at the Glencore-owned Raglan mine in Nunavik, also announced financial support.

May 21, 2021. Rally at ArcelorMittal headquarters in Longueuil

(Photos: Syndicat des Métallos)

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The Fight for Rights Is a Fight for Life

The Resources from Here for the Economy Here!
Your Wealth, My Health! Respect!

The 2,500 workers at the Fermont mining complex in the Côte-Nord region of Quebec are deeply concerned for their futures and that of their families and community. The global mining and steelmaking colossus ArcelorMittal buys the capacity to work of 168,000 workers around the world. Those workers produced a realized gross income of $53.27 billion in 2020 while working on company-owned assets valued at $82.052 billion. The global entity is listed on the imperialist stock markets as headquartered in Luxembourg with 37.4 per cent ownership resting in the hands of one man called Lakshmi Mittal.

On May 10, the workers, members of five locals of the Syndicat des Métallos, the Quebec Steelworkers, began a general strike, having rejected the company's "comprehensive and final offer" by margins ranging from 97 per cent to 99.6 per cent. The strike involves workers at the Mount Wright and Fire Lake Mines (Local 5778), port and railway workers (Local 6869), Port-Cartier office workers and security personnel (Local 7401 and 7401-FP South), Fermont office workers and security personnel (Local 7401 and 7401-FP North), and workers at the Port-Cartier pellet plant (Local 8664).

From their direct experience, the workers in Fermont believe the global oligopoly ArcelorMittal, which owns and controls the mine where they work, holds no consideration for their working and living conditions. Within the imposed relations of production, the global monopoly under the control of its ownership is obsessed with the aim to expropriate maximum profit from the value workers produce throughout its empire. That is the role the oligarchs assign each enterprise including the mine in Fermont. All other considerations are secondary and if they exist at all must in some way serve the main motivation and aim of maximum profit for those in ownership.

The workers in the Côte-Nord have no say over their Fermont enterprise and no control over any aspects of production and distribution of value other than what they can fight for and win in battle with the global ownership. They have no control over how much of the value they produce should be invested in their community to develop the social conditions and economy of the region. Even though the workers at the ArcelorMittal enterprise are by far the greatest producers of wealth in the town of Fermont, they have no say or control over how the value they produce from extracting iron ore from Mother Earth is invested or distributed. The only portion of value over which they have some control is the amount they manage to extract from the company within a collective agreement for the sale of their capacity to work. This portion consists mainly of wages or what is called the individual reproduced-value workers produce.

Except for the individual reproduced-value, most of the new value workers produce falls under the control of the ownership to do with as it likes as do all other aspects of the work. This means the oligarchs control the way the workers are organized to mine the iron ore and ship it to markets; the speed at which the iron ore is mined, which determines the longevity of the particular mine itself and even the longevity of the miners themselves; the price of production of the iron ore and its market price; the conditions of the social and natural environment in the region and throughout Quebec and Canada and whether they are humanized or not; the relations with the Indigenous peoples in the region; and the condition of the town site itself and its economy, cultural level and livability. All crucial aspects of life are considered outside the control of the working people in the Côte-Nord and fall under the dictatorship of the global ownership in faraway Luxembourg whose only stake in Quebec and Ontario is how much profit it can expropriate.

The workers, both individually and collectively through their steelworker locals and strike struggles, have declared clearly and loudly that this situation is untenable. Life cannot continue in this way where rights are denied, for when rights are denied life is denied. Those who work and produce the social wealth must have a say and control over that social wealth and its distribution and investment. The ownership cannot see that working and living conditions are deteriorating and the town itself is falling apart because the ownership refuses to recognize anything that interferes with its control and aim of expropriating maximum profit from the work to mine iron ore. What possible use are workers and their lives and towns, other than to produce profit for the oligarchs, they declare through their deeds.

The concrete conditions of the work and life in the region and the thought processes of the working people both from their individual and collective experience have brought forth a consciousness of the necessity to resist and the slogan and demand: The Resources from Here for the Economy Here! The situation must change because the working, social and natural conditions and the struggle of the human factor reveal and demand a new direction.

The Fight for Life Is a Fight for Rights

The life of working people both at work and in their communities is theirs to determine as a modern right. The resistance of the miners in the Côte-Nord is a fight for life, a fight for rights.

All across Canada resistance is developing to the dictatorial control of the global oligarchs over life and their denial of rights. The oligarchy exploits the resources whether ore, oil, trees or fish as its monopoly right to dominate life and Mother Earth. The oligarchs declare that workers receive "good paying jobs" in return for relinquishing their rights and control over their life and the social and natural environment, and to produce maximum profit for those in control. But that is not sustainable. That is what leads to mad scrambles to rip and ship when the boom is on and to lay off and destroy production when the crisis hits, what they euphemistically call the "circular economy." That is exactly what is not sustainable and in contradiction with the modern socialized conditions. It denies life and denies rights. The resources are for the working people to decide how to use and develop. What good is it to rip and ship if all that is left behind in the end is a wasteland or shrivelled town where CBC can come in and cynically produce its show Still Standing?

Resources together with the work of the human factor are the economy in the modern world. The fight for rights, including a cultured existence and respect for the human factor and Mother Earth, is the fight for life. Under the current conditions of the dictatorship of the global oligarchy, strikes and resistance to the oligarchs' mania to rip and ship, their endless wars and other disasters are what open a path forward. Organizing determined resistance is the necessary first step to affirm rights and life, the necessary struggle of working people to gain control over all matters that affect their lives, of which the base exists in the bounty of Mother Earth and conscious work of the human factor.

All Out to Support the Strike of Workers in Fermont!
The Resources from Here for the Economy Here!
The Fight for Rights Is the Fight for Life!

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