Thousands march in Hamilton to 'stand up for steel'

And we ask five of them: Why are you here today?

We ask 5 marchers: Why are you here today?

A march to "stand up for steel" attracted a few thousand workers from all over the province to downtown Hamilton on Saturday.

The workers rallied at city hall and then marched down Main Street, up John Street and around to King Street before attending another rally at the Convention Centre. 

'Stand up for steel' march in Hamilton

7 years ago
Duration 0:55
Workers from around the province face off against U.S. Steel, which bought the former Stelco plants in Hamilton and Nanticoke in 2007 that are now in bankruptcy protection

The march came as local steelworkers and retirees have been anxiously watching the bankruptcy protection process underway for U.S. Steel Canada — a process that may or may not end with a viable steel company in the city and pensions for thousands of retirees.

Below, five people answer the question: Why did you come today?

Brad Walchuk, Laura Harris and their children, Claire, 2, and Andrew, 4

Laura's dad worked at Stelco in the chemistry lab for 40 years.

Brad: "It's just about access to good jobs in the Hamilton community. When you potentially lose a big employer like Stelco, it has ripple effects in every industry now and certainly for the future as well."

Brad Walchuk carries Andrew Harris, 4, as he waves a sign in solidarity with unionized steelworkers in Local 1005. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Dave Hutchinson, 63, active steelworker

Hutchinson has worked at Stelco/U.S. Steel Canada for 44 years, working in maintenance on cranes at the plant.

"I'm a steelworker and I'm going to be collecting a pension someday, and I need to be active and make sure that's going to happen.

"[Becoming a steelworker] seemed like a good option a lot of years ago. We all hung in there because they told us at the end of the rainbow there'd be a pension and benefits, right? When you're young, you think, well, should I stay here or should I leave? And after I think it's 10 years, you're now vested in the pension and you've got to think seriously, do I want to give that up? So most of us stayed because of the promise. Stelco was a good employer."

Dave Hutchinson, 63, said he has no immediate plans to retire but wants to know his pension will be there when he's ready. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Kathleen Samuel, 71, widow of a retired steelworker

Kathleen's late husband worked at Stelco for 37 years. He retired in 2003 and passed away in 2013.

"It's to show them that we care. You've got to stand up for something. If you don't stand up for something, you're going to fall for anything."

Kathleen Samuel brought a photograph of her late husband, a retired steelworker who died in 2013, to Saturday's march. (Kelly Bennett)

Doug Parry, retired steelworker

Started at Stelco in 1970; worked there until 2007. Never worked directly for U.S. Steel but their decisions affect his retirement package through Stelco.

"I am here because U.S Steel has affected me personally. I'm a retiree. They cut off my cost-of-living [increase] arbitrarily. With the benefits that they cut on Oct. 9, I've personally had to pay hundreds of dollars out of my own pocket and it's forced me to switch to other medicines.

A lot of my brothers and sisters are in worse shape than I am as far as financial stability goes. It's just wrong what U.S. Steel has done. And they brought their 'Carnegie' style up here to do us in. It's terrible what the government's allowing them to get away with.

A lot of us got sick, got injured. Some of them died on the job to produce and make a good living wage for themselves and their families and now that all doesn't matter.

This is also going to have a ripple effect in Hamilton. Because the more we have to depend on agencies in the city, it's going to cost the city more money too.

Doug Mair said the cut to his retiree benefits in October meant he had to switch medications. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Eileen White, longtime Hamilton anti-poverty activist

Held a "HONK FOR HAMILTON" sign outside of the rally Saturday.

"We owe steelworkers a hell of a lot in this city. From the first migrants that predominantly started coming from Italy and Portugal and the British Isles. This is why we built this beautiful city.

I didn't work for the steel companies. But there was never a time that, when we were trying to initiate what turned into support benefits for all of us, we always had the trade unions at our back. I might be almost 70 but that doesn't mean I'm going to lay down and say 'Oh well, OK, it's somebody else's [problem].'

My number one expression of Hamilton is 'We have the spirit.' It didn't go anywhere."

Eileen White, a longtime Hamilton activist, said the city owes a lot to steelworkers. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)