Nearly a thousand men and women represented by United Steelworkers Local 8782 employed at US Steel Lake Erie Works have been locked out on Sunday April 28, 2013. This is the second lockout for Nanticoke workers after being locked out by US Steel for eight months in 2009-10. Hamilton steelworkers of USW Local 1005 were also locked out by US Steel from November 2010 to October 2011. These first two lockouts involved major assaults on pensions. The new lockout comes after employer demands for zero percent wage increases over three years, an effective gutting of cost-of-living adjustments, and reductions in holidays. Workers voted 99.6 percent in favour of a strike and voted 70 percent against the company’s final offer.
USW Local 8782 is getting the message out through the internet. Updates are posted on their website, including bargaining information. You can join the informative solidarity Facebook page here. The local has also established a Youtube page that already carries a number of videos. The video below is from May 8 and involves a series of interviews with locked out workers on the picket lines.
Since US Steel purchased Stelco in August 2007, the federal government has been unwilling to intervene in this ongoing assault on workers and their unions. The federal Tory and provincial Liberal governments are not only unwilling to protect decent Canadian jobs, but unwilling to protect strategically-important industries necessary for a green overhaul and expansion of Canada’s outdated, oil-based transit infrastructure.
US Steel is not even the most extreme example of this problem. In February 2012, federal and provincial non-intervention allowed Caterpillar to close Ontario’s only locomotive manufacturing plant located in London, leaving only one locomotive plant left in Canada. Just last month Caterpillar announced the closure of Canada’s only subway-tunneling machinery plant, based in Toronto. Both closures have happened despite record profits from Caterpillar, which is the world’s largest heavy equipment manufacturer. Combined, these two closures will result in over a thousand direct job losses, the loss of many more dependent jobs, the impoverishment of hundreds of families, and the depression of already hurting local economies.
The federal government would rather intervene in the economy when it comes to the tar sands through subsidies to oil companies and stripping away environmental and labour protections. But it will not intervene to stop the destruction of good jobs and the manufacturing base necessary for the green transformation of our economy which climate change demands. Steel, locomotives and subway-tunneling equipment are all essential to such a project but Canada is losing its ability to do so through corporate greed and the complicity of government. Organized labour’s response demands a strategy and set of policies that links bread-and-butter worker issues to a vision of what sort of society we need for both humanity and the environment.