March 15, 2011 - No. 39
Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
U.S. Steel's Removal of Coke for
Production to the U.S.
Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
• U.S. Steel's Removal of Coke for Production
to the U.S. - Press Release USW
• Steelworkers Discuss U.S. Steel's Latest
• New Billboards in Hamilton Support Locked Out
Steelworkers and May First Rally on Parliament Hill
• Lucien Bouchard's Fraudulent Defence of the
"Best Interests of Quebeckers" -
• Wisconsin Struggle for Rights Rages On
• Highlights of Wisconsin's Anti-Union,
Bill" - Voice of Revolution
Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
U.S. Steel's Removal of Coke for
Production to the U.S.
USW Local 1005 is calling a press conference on
Thursday, March 17 to address reports indicating that U.S. Steel has
ordered the freighters "Atlantic Erie" and "Laurentien," both owned by
Canada Steamship Lines, to come to Hamilton beginning March 24 to load
44,000 tons of metallurgical coke. This Stelco
produced-coke is normally completely consumed in steelmaking at
Hamilton Works. There are some 200,000 tons of coke sitting in Hamilton
with a sale value of some $60 million.
The continued production of coke at Hamilton Works even
while U.S. Steel shut down steelmaking and shifted production of steel
to its plants in the U.S. was accepted by Local 1005 in consideration
for the well-being of the coke ovens. U.S. Steel should be denounced
for attempting to take advantage of Local
1005's concern for Stelco's equipment by removing this valuable
commodity from Hamilton for use in its U.S. plants. U.S. Steel should
bargain in good faith with Canadian steelworkers, sign a collective
agreement with Local 1005 without extorting pension concessions, and
produce steel in Hamilton according to
its legal commitments to the people of Canada.
This provocation also complicates the environmental
reality that the production of coke is the most polluting aspect of
blast furnace steelmaking. U.S. Steel seems fine with polluting
Hamilton and then slapping the city in the face by having the coke
removed to add value through steelmaking in the United States.
This reeks of a subservient colonial relationship that is unacceptable
Even as steelmaking has rebounded along with steel
prices, U.S. Steel is telling Canadians that it refuses to recognize
the pension rights of steelworkers that it inherited with its purchase
of Stelco and will continue its campaign of extortion until Canadians
submit to its dictate. This is the ugly face of monopoly
right and must not pass. The people of Hamilton are faced with the
necessity to rally together to prevent the removal of Stelco coke from
Governments must be accountable to the people and public
right and not to U.S. Steel and its monopoly right.
Steelworkers Discuss U.S. Steel's Latest Provocation
At Local 1005's monthly
membership meeting and at its Thursday
meeting, held on March 9 and 10 respectively, members and pensioners
discussed reports that U.S. Steel is planning to ship Stelco-produced
coke that is usually consumed in steel production at Hamilton Works to
This development can only be seen as a continuation of
U.S. Steel's attack on Canadians and their steelmaking industry,
workers pointed out. It is a provocation which shows further contempt
for the signed commitments U.S. Steel made under the Investment
Canada Act (ICA) to maintain production
and employment in Canada, they said. The steelworkers pointed out that
even if the coke belongs to U.S. Steel, its removal is no less of a
"The workers rejected out
of hand any idea that the
removal of the coke be used to intimidate Local 1005 to sign a contract
at unacceptable terms," President Rolf Gerstenberger told Information
Update. "Any attempt to further blackmail the union and panic
members -- 'give up pensions for new hires
and drop indexing or else you will stay locked out until you do,' was
categorically rejected," Rolf said. The workers reaffirmed their stand
that U.S. Steel should bargain in good faith, not use its dominant
position to extort what it wants. Aren't attempts to extort something a
practice normally associated with what
is called the mafia, they asked. "Give us your 'agreement' to give up
new hires and indexing and we will 'protect' your jobs?" Is this what
Canadian workers are supposed to consider the new rule of law because
the government says that the monopolies have the right to do what they
please with "their property" i.e.
the coke produced in Hamilton?
Local 1005 workers discussed the necessity for the
federal and Ontario governments to do their duty to uphold public right
and stop U.S. Steel's abuse of Hamilton and extortion of steelworkers
and its continuing flaunting of agreements it made when allowed to buy
Stelco under the authority of the ICA. Instead
of any net benefit to Canada, Canadians are suffering a gross
detriment. They are deprived of their livelihoods, subjected to
extortion, deprived of the wealth derived from steel production and
left with the polluting negative effects of coke production without the
potential benefit from steelmaking. At the very least,
this latest provocation is in contempt of the Attorney General's ICA
lawsuit against U.S. Steel presently being heard in Federal Court. Any
attempt to remove the Stelco coke which normally would be used in
Canadian steelmaking tells Canadians that U.S. Steel is thumbing its
nose at its commitments under the ICA.
It must not pass.
New Billboards in Support of Locked Out Steelworkers
and May First Rally on Parliament Hill
Lucien Bouchard's Fraudulent Defence of the
Interests of Quebeckers"
Signs opposing shale gas
exploration, Montreal, March 12, 2011
On February 24, former Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard
gave his first interview since his appointment as head of the Quebec
and Gas Association (QOGA) with the mandate to defend the exploitation
of shale gas by the energy monopolies which Quebeckers vehemently
oppose. Workers and the
Quebec people know of Lucien Bouchard
and his history as the traveling salesman of the monopolies at the head
of the Quebec government during the anti-social offensive of the mid
'90s, and later in the service of the financial oligarchies against the
Olymel workers' fight as well as in various other labour disputes as a
Bouchard's succession to the head of the QOGA comes at a
time when the credibility of those who promote the exploitation of
shale gas by private monopolies is at its
lowest. The strategy of the ruling circles in Quebec is still the same
-- polemics about the alleged benefits from the exploitation of shale
gas and the sell out of Quebec's natural
resources while denigrating opposition to the anti-social offensive.
They think that if
working class and people oppose these projects en masse, it is because
there is a "problem of perception" or because "the people don't
understand." They suggest schemes at every occasion to sugarcoat their
unpalatable aims, while
seeking the divine intervention of
a Lucien Bouchard. The Charest
government has mastered the art of accusing the people of not
understanding -- one need only recall Mount Orford, the Suroit thermal
plant project or the 2006 student strike. In this regard it isn't
surprising that Bouchard has declared that he
is heading the shale gas monopolies' interests to represent the "best
interests of Quebeckers." It's the kind of position Bouchard is
particularly fond of taking when he says "my clients have to accept a
In the interview
Bouchard says he is "convinced
that the industry would never think of developing this resource if they
were not able to subordinate their interests to the public's
interests." Right off the bat such a declaration shows whose "best
interests" he serves. The fight against the plunder of natural
resources and the destruction of the natural environment by the
monopolies is an integral part of the fight for public right to
restrict monopoly right. When Bouchard speaks of the monopolies
subordinating "their interests to the public's interests," it means
that the public interest is the interest of the monopolies, which is of
course not the case.
By sleight of hand he pretends that the interests of the
monopolies are compatible with those of the working class and people.
The fight against the looting and exploitation of shale gas itself
shows how such interests are irreconcilable. The oil and gas industry,
the Charest government and the ruling elites are forced
to organize "information campaigns," spend millions in advertising,
attack geologists, and mobilize immense resources to advance their
destructive projects -- whose interests coincide here? The interests of
the elites of course.
The former president of the QOGA, André
Caillé, former CEO of Hydro-Quebec, is a long-time collaborator
of Lucien Bouchard. At the time that Bouchard was Premier and
Caillé was head of Hydro- Quebec, they axed the
Société québécoise d'initiative
pétrolière (SOQUIP) (Quebec Oil Initiative), which was
finally dissolved this past November. The connection between Bouchard's
time and that of the Charest government today is that the Charest
government was such a good disciple it decided to sell the exploitation
rights to the oil monopolies on the sly in a secret deal.
The remuneration paid to
the oil monopoly Talisman
Energy also reveals his conception of the public interest.
Bouchard states that the public interest is "the environment, to
ensure that enrichment will benefit everyone, that relations
with local communities will be respected, that there is
collaboration with municipalities," which is just about the total
opposite of what is actually happening. He adds that shale gas is a
project for "future generations." Bouchard's project for "future
generations" is a Quebec of the monopolies where Quebec is an open
field for the exploitation of energy resources in the
service of U.S. imperialism.
The fight over control of energy and natural
resources is at the heart of the aspirations of the working class and
people of Quebec for a nation-building project which favours them.
concerned about their future and about the agenda of the Charest
government and the monopolies to sell-off the natural
resources. "Providential Lucien" will not be able to eliminate the
aspirations of the majority in favour of the anachronistic, archaic and
Wisconsin Struggle for Rights Rages On
Madison, March 9-10, 2011
and youth together in defence
of the rights of all!
The Wisconsin working class is in a battle to defend its
rights and break new ground for the U.S. working class movement. On
Saturday March 12, for
the 27th straight day, demonstrations shook the capital of Madison and
other cities throughout the state. The biggest force
to date of more than 120,000 workers,
seniors and youth surrounded the Capitol building and occupied it.
Representatives of owners of monopoly capital are using
Wisconsin state political power to attack the rights of workers to
organize legally in collectives of their peers and to have a say in
their working conditions and claims on the wealth produced by the
Wisconsin working class. In opposition, the demonstrators
are defending the right of workers to organize legally into collectives
of their peers without interference from the owners of capital, and to
bargain in good faith their working conditions and claim on the wealth
produced by the Wisconsin working class.
Breaking New Ground in the
Struggle for the Rights of
Workers' rights are theirs by virtue of being human and
the producers of all wealth and providers of all services. In the
context of the dictatorship of monopoly capital, workers' rights are
only won in class struggle in defence of the rights
of all. They are only won when the initiative is kept in the hands of
workers organized through their own efforts and guided by their own
thinking in opposition to the control and thinking of the owners of
In this context, workers and their allies in Wisconsin
are discussing how to break new ground and move their battle forward.
They are looking at the experience of others and assessing their
tactics in light of the reactionary political power they face from the
organized collectives of owners of capital such as the
Republican Party in power in Madison, the Democratic Party in power in
the White House and other anti-worker anti-social forces.
At this time, the tactics of class struggle are being
hotly discussed. The TML correspondent in Wisconsin reports that the
leaders and activists of worker collectives, seniors and youth are wary
of letting the initiative slip out of their hands and into the hands of
those who would betray the struggle. They are acutely
aware they need to break new ground within the conditions of neoliberal
The Canadian working class has much experience in the
organization of "big events" that are well attended but instead of
breaking new ground and leading to a greater mass mobilization and
sustained opposition of the working class, seniors and youth, the "big
event" is turned against the movement and used
to "let off steam" and demobilize the people with calls to go home and
elect this or that "more friendly" representative of the political
parties of the owners of capital.
Our correspondent reports that the head of the
firefighters' union spoke of plans for a general strike. Quoted in the
mass media he said, "Well, a strike is the trump card as Jim Cavanaugh
from the South Federation of Labor said. We've got to work on it, put
everything into place, make sure emergency operations
are in place. It takes a lot of coordination. The general strikes that
happened in Ontario, that's similar to what happened here in Wisconsin.
And so we have got to take those lessons learned back from the '70s in
Ontario, 1935 in Minneapolis and San Francisco that created the
National Labor Relations Act. We've
got a lot of education and learning to do and if we do put this into
place we have got to make sure it is effective and I think our people
Lessons Learned from the
'70s and '90s
The necessity to have actions with analysis, break new
ground and not allow the initiative to slip out of the hands of
activists was learned from the October 14, 1976 National General Strike
and Demonstrations Against Trudeau's Wage and Price Controls
and the 1995-98 Ontario Days of Action Against the Harris anti-social
cutbacks and privatizations.
The October 14, 1976 one day national general strike
acted as an escape valve for the boiling steam of working class
opposition that was churning against the Trudeau Liberals' unilateral
ripping up of the post-war social contract. Many consider Trudeau's
treachery of wage controls and the one day general strike
as the end of the social contract and the beginning of a long decline
of the organized trade union movement, social programs and public
services that broke new ground in the conditions of the post-war
period. The 1976 general strike effectively demobilized the masses of
workers who were eager to organize and
fight to defend the rights of all. The demobilization of the working
class movement set the stage for the advent of Brian Mulroney onto the
national stage with his neoliberal global free trade agenda and the
even greater attacks on social programs and the rights of workers by
Chretien, Bourassa, Rae, Harris, Martin,
Campbell, Charest, Harper and other political representatives of
Working class tactics are the lifeblood of the movement.
They must be broadly and consciously discussed by all involved and seen
as markers in the overall advance of the working class movement to
break new ground in the struggle for new political and economic
arrangements. Wrong tactics can strangle the
working class movement from above and lead to demobilization and
collapse such as what happened after October 14, 1976 and the 1995-98
Ontario Days of Action.
The conditions of neoliberal globalization demand the
breaking of new ground. The tactics of today are found in a concrete
analysis of concrete conditions and not in looking back in nostalgia or
envy at what others have done or are doing. Breaking new ground demands
independent working class thinking and
organizing that leads to the mass mobilization of workers, seniors and
youth for public right and the rights of all in opposition to monopoly
right, neoliberal globalization and the politics of monopoly capital.
Let us together, Canadian, Quebec and U.S. workers break
new ground in the struggle to defend the rights of all!
Victory to the Wisconsin working class, seniors and
Public right YES! Monopoly right NO! One for all, all
for one! Workers, seniors and youth together in defence of the rights
Highlights of Anti-Union, Anti-Social "Budget Bill"
Below is a summary of some
of the main content of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's Fiscal Year
2010-11 Budget Adjustment Bill. Although the governor has insisted the
bill was necessary to deal with a budget "deficit," in order to get it
passed it was amended to remove all references to financial matters.
Commonly, significant bills include fiscal issues and require a quorum,
which for Wisconsin is 20 Senators. Bills without financial issues do
not. The manoeuvre, hailed by the Governor, allowed the Wisconsin
Senate to pass the bill without a quorum. None of the Democratic
Senators were present for the vote, as
they remained outside the state in an effort to block passage of the
bill. Republican Senators voted 18-1 for passage.
As well, to quickly bring
the bill to the Senate floor,
the conference committee responsible met without notice.
Normally, 24-hour notice is required under Wisconsin's open meeting
laws. The committee reportedly met for five minutes, and the floor
debate and vote took less than half an hour. These manoeuvres
in the Senate were preceded by similar manoeuvres in the Assembly, when
it passed the bill in February. Then the vote was called in the early
morning hours and the period open for voting was so short that most
Democrats and even many Republicans did not get a chance to vote.
Further, after the Senate passed
its version of the bill, the Assembly also quickly met to pass the same
bill so that the entire period from voting on the amended bill to
signing by the Governor was three days.
These sorts of manoeuvres have outraged the people of
Wisconsin and those nationwide as they further reveal the
non-representative and undemocratic character of the current system of
governance. The arrangements between Democrats and Republicans are no
longer working, while the firm demand of the majority
against the bill does not prevail. The people remain blocked from power
in a situation where it is clear they can and must be decision-makers.
This anti-worker bill not only demands "flexibility" to
eliminate agreements on pensions, health care and working conditions,
also demands that unions be recertified every year and that contracts
only last for one year. Some collectives are simply removed as
collectives legally permitted to bargain at all.
The anti-worker content of the bill is aimed not only at
destroying unions and the ability of workers to organize, but also at
gutting social services and creating conditions of even greater
uncertainty for all. The bill, like many others nationwide, attacks not
only the workers, but the people making use of the
public services and social programs the workers provide. It is a means
to undermine the living standards of the workers and decimate the
services while ensuring public funds are used to pay the rich, by
handing over pensions as well as guaranteed debt payments, tax breaks,
incentive programs, and war funding.
It is a bill openly guaranteeing monopoly right at a time when the
people are demanding that public right be guaranteed.
State, Local Government and
School District Labor Relations
Collective bargaining: The bill would remove
working conditions, pensions and benefits as areas for contract
negotiations. In addition, while wages can be negotiated, total wage
increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index
(CPI) unless approved by general referendum.
Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would
be frozen until the new contract is settled. In addition, unions would
be forced to recertify every year. Workers already have broad
experience with such recertification votes, which provide employers an
opportunity to blackmail, harass, and threaten workers
defending the unions.
As well, employers would be prohibited from making the
usual paycheck deductions for collecting union dues and workers who are
members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay
dues. These are typical "right to work" clauses, already in use in 22
All of these features are aimed at undermining the
ability of the unions to organize, to create conflict among the workers
and conditions of constant uncertainty for all. It gives state
executives arbitrary powers to remove and change pensions and benefits,
while greatly limiting the organizing rights of the workers.
Local law enforcement, firefighters, and state troopers
and inspectors would be exempt from these changes.
Elimination of Contracts for Certain Workers: The
bill repeals the authority of home health care workers under the
Medicaid program to collectively bargain. It also repeals the authority
of family childcare workers, University of Wisconsin Hospitals and
Clinics (UWHC) Board and Authority workers
and University of Wisconsin faculty and academic staff to collectively
bargain. This means no contracts for these workers, and standards for
working conditions, wages and benefits arbitrarily set by government
Preventing work actions: If the Governor declares
a state of emergency, an action arbitrarily and unilaterally determined
by the Governor, the bill authorizes appointing authorities to fire any
worker who participates in an organized action to stop or slow work
and any worker who is absent for three
days without approval.
Part-time workers: Part-time workers, known as
Limited Term Employees (LTE's), would not be eligible for health
insurance or participation in the Wisconsin Retirement System and the
pensions it provides.
Pensions, Benefits and
Currently, state employees on average pay approximately
6 per cent of annual health insurance premiums. This bill will require
that state employees pay at least 12.6 per cent of the average cost of
annual premiums. In addition, the bill would require changes to the
plan to reduce current premiums by 5 per cent. Local
employers participating in the Public Employers Group Health insurance
would be prohibited from paying more than 88 per cent of the lowest
plan. These measures generally mean worse care and fewer covered
benefits. The bill would also
authorize the Department of Employee Trust Funds to hand over $28
funds in reserve accounts to the insurance and
The bill directs the Department of Employee Trust Funds
and the Group Insurance Board to implement health risk assessments and
similar programs aimed at participant wellness, collect certain data
related to assessing health care provider quality and effectiveness,
and verify the status of dependents participating
in the state health insurance program. This too is a measure to further
limit benefits, especially for families.
The bill directs the Department of Administration,
Office of State Employment Relations and Department of Employee Trust
Funds to study and report on possible changes to the Wisconsin
Retirement System, including defined contribution plans and longer
vesting periods. The three agencies must also study
and report on changes to the current state health insurance plans,
including health insurance purchasing exchanges, larger purchasing
pools, and high-deductible insurance options. The studies are
considered a prelude to the elimination of defined benefit pensions,
representing a major attack on pensions.
Sale of State Heating Plants
The bill authorizes the Department of Administration to
sell state heating plants. These are public assets and contribute to
the energy needs of the state. According to reports, these sales can be
done on a no-bid basis, meaning the executive branch can hand these
assets over to the monopoly of its choosing. The proceeds from any sale
must first be used to pay debt servicing. Anything that remains would
be deposited in the "budget stabilization" fund. This allows any funds
secured to be used however the Governor sees fit to "stabilize" the