'We're back!' Stelco and Local 1005 team up to raise $10K for Food Share Hamilton

For the first time in years, the Hamilton steelmaker was able to match funds raised by the union. Staff hope the donation marks the beginning of a new tradition of Stelco giving.

For the first time in years, the Hamilton steelmaker was able to match funds raised by the union.

Jim McColl and Dan Bates from USW Local 1005 hold up two of the buckets they used to gather $5,000 from Stelco workers last week. The steelmaker matched their donation, bringing the total to $10,000 for Hamilton Food Share. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

We're Back! Posters hanging at Stelco's headquarters proclaim.

Those two words are equal parts a declaration of defiance and shout of celebration for the rebounding steelmaker and on Wednesday the company put that message into action, meeting a milestone that's symbolic of its comeback by matching a $5,000 donation for Hamilton Food Share gathered by USW Local 1005.

That $10,000 boost will make a big difference for the organization that supplies 12 major food banks across the city.

"The big change this year is Stelco is back with a corporate donation," said resources development manager Celeste Taylor. "That's huge."

CBC Hamilton is partnering with Food Share through its annual Sounds of the Season fundraiser, and was on hand at Stelco headquarters Wednesday to help celebrate and announce the milestone donation. 

Those funds were collected coin by coin and bill by bill in buckets held by five or six Local 1005 members who, along with Santa Claus, stood outside the steelmaker's front gate during the morning, afternoon and evening shifts on Dec. 5.

"These guys are dedicated, they're willing to give," said recording secretary, Jim McColl.

"With only 600 people here they're willing to give and help out Hamilton Food Share, and kids at Christmas. Nobody should be hungry and nobody should be homeless."

We really want to bring back the tradition of  Stelco  giving back.- Rosemary  McTiernan , Stelco's vice president of human resources

The union has managed to haul in thousands of dollars for area food banks in years past. Members have always been generous, explained McColl, even with things were tight and the future unsure.

"Even through the tough times, when we didn't know if we were going to be out of work, these guys were still willing to give. They'll empty their ashtrays or hand over a $5, $10, $50, there were even a few hundreds in there."

Generosity in tough times

The company has emerged from an extended bankruptcy protection process initiated under former owners U.S Steel, with new ownership, the old Stelco name and some encouraging early economic performance. McColl said seeing Stelco match the union's donation this year is promising.

"It's a great sign. For the past three or four years they couldn't do that," he added. The tariff situation with the United States remains a worry for the future.

"The steel industry is still going through a period of upset, but it's encouraging to know that these new owners are willing to put the investment into the equipment they have here in bad times and in good and to be able to profit through the upset."

From left, Jim McColl, Celeste Taylor from Hamilton Food Share, Santa, Rosemary McTiernan, VP of Human Resources and Sujit Sanyal, chief operating officer for Stelco, Dennis Vanmeer, Tony McLaughlin and Ron Wells with USW Local 1005, pose with a $5,000 cheque. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Rosemary McTiernan has worked at Stelco for decades. In that time she's seen the company go through all sorts of changes.

But one change the steelmaker's vice president of human resources said she's happy to see is "stable, supportive" owners who want to give back.

"We really want to bring back the tradition of Stelco giving back and make that the success once it was," she said.

"We want to be able to rebuild and help future people who are coming along, so that we have a Stelco that is a landmark once again in Hamilton. To me that's really special."