Hamilton steel: Are we a country or not?

By ROLF GERSTENBERGER*

ON BEHALF OF present and former members of Local 1005 USW, I wish to express deep regret and anger at the announced permanent closure of steelmaking at Hilton Works, which has been in operation our entire lives and has made Hamilton what it is today.

This is a dagger into the heart and soul of our community. The hand on this poisonous blade stretches from Pittsburgh but it has been guided into our chest by the federal and Ontario governments. They have the power to say no to this attack on Canada’s economy. They have the power to beat back this invasion of destructive robber barons whose private self-interest has nothing good to offer Canada.

Harper speaks constantly of national security and protecting Canadians from terrorism and degenerate social values. But when it comes to protecting them from this wrecking of Canadian livelihoods, steelmaking and security in retirement, which amounts to a form of U.S. terrorism, his government says it is a private decision and it cannot intervene! Some people wonder how different has this been than if the U.S. military marched into Hamilton and blew up our mill with shells and bombs? They have ripped two million tons of annual steel production out of our economy. How is this value to be replaced? Through imports. Those imports of steel drain our economy of value because we as a country, we as our own economy have an under supply problem in steel, not one of oversupply.

Harper’s anti-Industry Minister James Moore said U.S. Steel’s wrecking of Hilton Works is a business decision and that the government does not get involved in the day-to-day decisions of any company. Then why does the Conservative Party call itself the government of Canada? We need a government that defends Canadians, not a gang of toadies who nod off to sleep while global monopolies do whatever they want. All of it is justified under the hoax of defending democratic freedom which allegedly requires governments which do not intervene in business decisions. What a self-serving interpretation of non-intervention!

Are we a country or not!? Are we Canadians destined forever to be victims of business decisions made who knows where? Those decisions are certainly not made here by us in our country that has retirees to look after, youth who want to work and produce, and an economy that needs a new direction.

What is the next day-to-day decision of this foreign molloch that is going to stomp on us with impunity? Is it bankruptcy of U.S. Steel Canada to rid the U.S. owners of any responsibility for our pensions? Is that the next business decision the federal and Ontario governments will refuse to get involved with?

Not so long as we have anything to say about it.

This nonsense must end! Harper’s Canada is not a country of, for and by Canadians. This is not a country that defends the security and well-being of its citizens, their economy and future. It is a non-country subject to the whims of the most powerful global monopolies that do whatever they want because they can, because they are allowed to, because the governments refuse to intervene on behalf of Canadians.

U.S. Steel executives complain all the time of an oversupply of steelmaking capacity in the U.S. and globally. Why do they not simply pass a law and say steel consumed in the U.S. must be made in the U.S.? Canada should do the same and then we could all be happy in our strengthened steelmaking capacity harmonized to meet our internal demand. And if we did not have enough capacity then we could build it, which we are perfectly capable of doing. No, they prefer to complain and then march into Canada and destroy our steelmaking capacity so they can dump their U.S.-made steel on our backs because they have an oversupply problem. They treat U.S. steelworkers no better.

Stelco originally thrived precisely because the governments of the day rejected continentalism. They saw in their wisdom that if they allowed U.S. companies unfettered right to do as they please, Canada would not have been built and would have been reduced to producing mostly raw material. How about bringing new arrangements into being today that defend the country and its citizens and meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Steel consumed in Canada should be produced in Canada. Heavy industrial machinery used in Canada should be manufactured in Canada. The present way is not working. The present way is riddled with recurring crises and unresolved problems precisely because governments refuse to intervene on behalf of the country and its citizens. Our governments turn a blind eye to the security and rights of the people and an active eye to defending the security and rights of big companies. This has to change and steelworkers and their allies are determined to change it.

Join us in this struggle for a new direction! We have a country to build!

* Rolf Gerstenberger is the President of Local 1005 USW which represents the workers at Hilton Works in Hamilton.

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