Economy

US Steel Closing Canadian Operations; Councillors Exchange Barbs

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 03, 2009

In response to the Hamilton Spectator's breaking news report that US Steel (formerly Stelco) is shutting down its Canadian operations (including its Hamilton and Lake Erie operations), Councillor Sam Merulla (Ward 4) just sent an email to local media that reads simply: "Let's build a stadium!!!!!!! [sic]"

Merulla was one of three councillors to oppose a city commitment to help fund a Pan Am Stadium in Hamilton.

Councillor Bratina (Ward 2) immediately responded, "This is not a matter for smug jokes."

Glenn Johnson of CanWest News Service replied to all, writing, "Would you two call each other instead of wasting everyone else's time."

This is not the first time that Merulla and Bratina have exchanged testy emails over the Pan Am Stadium proposal.

The US Steel closure of its Hamilton and Lake Erie operations could affect 2,100 workers, though the final total is not yet clear. So far, the company has already laid off almost 700 of its 1,700 wage employees in Hamilton.

Bill Ferguson, leader of the United Steelworkers Union in Lake Erie, reported to the Spectator that he heard the plant is closing "due to a lack of orders."

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

45 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 18:19:29

Sam is too much. These emails are nothin. There was a beauty several months back that was never published, but I had the comedic pleasure of being in on. WOW.
Pretty bad when media outlets are telling councillors to quit wasting everyone's time. LOL.

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By NAFTA SHAFTA (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 18:59:22

Shut down the union, eh? U.S. Steel is obviously playing their position for the ruling class team.

They want to turn Hamilton into a maquiladora.

None of the promises they've made have bettered our lives. Now the capitalist system is in crisis and Hamilton is getting the rug pulled from under us. When are Hamiltonians gonna stop pussyfooting around and get class conscious?

That means you white collars too! Their system is not working for us!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 19:55:40

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

This is what will keep happening until the people of Hamilton realize that just because government gives them free money, it is doesn't mean that it's right to steal the fruits of other people's labour. Government is not God, so just because our democratic system says it alright to take from others, does not mean that God will not punish those who do. Keep up the good work.

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By God (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 20:13:46

I don't remember assigning you to speak for me A Smith. I would appreciate it if you would keep your half baked ideolgical bat shit crazy opinions to yourself. And stop trying to use warp every situation to confirm your own misguided beliefs.

Oh. and FYI, I closed Stelco because you touch yourself at night.

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By God (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 20:27:16

I don't remember assigning you to speak for me A Smith. I would appreciate it if you would keep your half baked ideolgical bat shit crazy opinions to yourself. And stop trying to use warp every situation to confirm your own misguided beliefs.

Oh. and FYI, I closed Stelco because you touch yourself at night.

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By Ariel (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 21:11:08

Surely the last post's wasn't God...it must be a dislexic Dog instead!

A Smith. I agree with most of what you say, but Stelco closing is a bad state of affairs.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 21:58:40

Only the worst of people take delight in the misery of others.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 22:25:34

Half the stories I've read make it seem that this is a temporary closure. I assume more information will be forthcoming in the days ahead, but can anyone coroborate this?

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By You and Media (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 22:41:18

Oh Sam you just don't know when to shut the hell up.

----
From: Merulla, Sam
Sent: Tue Mar 03 2009 16:43
Subject: Re: TheSpec.com - BreakingNews - US STEEL SHUTTING DOWN CANADIAN OPERATIONS

Good point but it just occurred to me that Mr Bratina doesn't return my calls and he voted to silence me at council last Wednesday. Ergo good point if and only if and because and only because the other party would want the truth to be told.
----

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 22:46:37

JonC, I delight in people doing the right thing, which includes not stealing other people's money. If it takes pain to learn this lesson, so be it.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 23:24:53

So who did the workers steal from? Who did the families of those workers steal from? Who did the workers at auxiliary industries and their families steal from? Who did the small business owners frequented by the above steal from? You take glee in the suffering of all because you have somehow twisted this unfortunate event to fit your sick world view. I can't imagine gall it takes to try and justify this "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." You're the worst kind of hateful quoting scripture to justify your hate.

How about "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Or Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Robert D As to the temporary closure, that is what I've read, but they've shut down the coke ovens in Hamilton which isn't a good sign (Nanticoke's is still running). Steel lost half it's value and unless the cost comes up a fair amount, I don't have much hope for it in it's current function.

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By Eh, Smith? (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2009 at 23:33:58

@JonC OBVIOUSLY global steel lost half its value because Hamilton got an extra GO Train in the morning. I mean, "I am just telling the truth as I see it."

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By SHAFTA (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 00:09:47

My family loses its income and you want to say it's god's will or karma. Why don't you come down to Burlington St. after the last shift and say that to the guys.

A Hole.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 01:00:20

SHAFTA >> I never said that the individual workers at Stelco deserved to lose their jobs, but simply that I believed Hamilton as a whole would suffer if it kept taking other people's money, which due to some freaky timing, has borne itself out.

If you feel the need to get "revenge" against me just because I said something like this would happen, I feel sorry for you.


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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 01:11:29

Nafta Shafta: I agree with you that all workers must join together in these times, there are many in the city that already suffer and now there will be more.

This will effect many across the city in more ways then one but then the ruling elite want us all to be on minimum wage, to have no benefits or pensions. There will be the rise in temp or precarious work and you will need to know your rights in this industry.

This is what this city needs a resurgence of the gathering of the workers, to be a loud voice in which the leaders will take notice of.

The money men and our leaders have taken so much away from us, the people, where they think we have no voice but they are wrong, we do have a voice and as the weeks go on, that voice will echo loudly.

Keep the faith, that others in the community do care and are fighting on many levels.

Hey city council, I think food security is going to be a major issue in this city, how many more people will be denied food at the food banks now?

How many people will have their hydro turned off or limiters put on because they can no longer pay their bills?

How many more people will be in the streets, homeless?

Solidarity for all workers!

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By JonC (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 07:47:29

"I never said that the individual workers at Stelco deserved to lose their jobs", SHAFTA didn't say that either they said "My family loses its income and you want to say it's god's will or karma" because you said "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap"

You think it's a smiting of Hamilton from god for the city's past behaviour and and you find pleasure in it. You're despicable.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 08:55:54

No worries...I don't think ASmith knows anything about God.

Seriously sucks for some guys. Only consolation I guess is that it's "temporary". We'll see how temporary it is.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 09:13:43

I don't understand what Merulla is saying with that comment.

Does he mean that building a stadium is a waste of money because we could use the $60ish million to do what for the workers? Is the City supposed to fix the global recession with its $60m (Stadium money) so that Stelco workers can go back to work.

Or does Merulla think that Hamilton should keep paying the wages until US Steel says it's time to start making steel again? I don't get it Sam.

Sam what's your plan is? Propose something that could be done, rather then tell us what the problem is, what everyone already knows.

Sam, shut up or say something constructive. Try saying something useful for once.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 09:13:57

I don't understand what Merulla is saying with that comment.

Does he mean that building a stadium is a waste of money because we could use the $60ish million to do what for the workers? Is the City supposed to fix the global recession with its $60m (Stadium money) so that Stelco workers can go back to work.

Or does Merulla think that Hamilton should keep paying the wages until US Steel says it's time to start making steel again? I don't get it Sam.

Sam what's your plan is? Propose something that could be done, rather then tell us what the problem is, what everyone already knows.

Sam, shut up or say something constructive

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By Synxer (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 09:51:18

Oh, boy. Sam Merulla. I don't know what to say about you, cat. You mean well, but you sure need to do some research.

We're always talking about change in Hamilton - when that change will come and what it will look like -- and my favorite - its coming soon. Well, if there is any indication of change in Hamilton, this is it.

Let's try and see the positives of it. In the 80s, this would have been a devastating blow to most everyone because most everyone in Hamilton worked at Stelco or Dofasco. But that isn't the case anymore. Hamilton has a diverse landscape of employment opportunities now.

Sometimes for major changes to take place, a system must fail. The times ahead are going to be hard for some, harder for others. I believe when you get a second chance to change the root and causalities of a system we all benefit.

Changing minds about a system that "works for most" is a hard task indeed. Changing minds about a system that is failing or has failed is much easier.

Let us all listen to fresh ideas about economics in the coming months. Let us all remember how we got to this point, and how we can avoid it in the future.

Lastly, my sincere wishes for perseverance and stability go to those who lost their jobs. You are the martyr of change, but will surely help put the pieces back in the right places as you've seen the walls fall from the inside.

Nick

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By JonC (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 10:09:57

If temporary roles on too long (or if it isn't intended that way in the first place), I hope US Steel finds a buyer for the site promptly. The access to roads, rails and water in an affordable community the middle of Southern Ontario makes it one of the most attractive spots in the country for production. I know a lot of people will be clamouring for water front condos, but I'm in favour of maintaining an industrial base of some sort.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 10:18:13

JonC >> You think it's a smiting of Hamilton from god for the city's past behaviour and and you find pleasure in it. You're despicable.

If Hamilton wants to avoid further assaults on it's private sector, it should start paying it's own way.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 10:33:12

Despicable

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By Z Jones (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 10:34:52

See A Smith, anyone who wasn't a complete asshat would of apologized by now for making such a rediculous argument, taking advantage of peoples misfortune to squeeze his own broken horn, and for being an insensitive ass during a time when a lot of people are losing there jobs.

That's why aside from one or two fellow travellers / sock puppets NO ONE has any respect for you or your broken record BS comments. Seriously, go away for a while and have a good think about things. I'm not saying this to "silence" you incase you decide to get some persecution complex, I'm saying it to HELP you before you open your yap again and convince a bunch more people how clueless you are.

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By peter cushing (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 10:44:40

I say, let the ass bray. All he's doing is revealing his true colours.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 10:45:47

This is a sad situation and as a Christian, I find it ludicrous to read this garbage from ASmith. God's not punishing Hamilton. He cares about Hamilton and it's people. Please start posting under your real name and stand behind such hateful comments.

I wish all the workers and their families well. This is going to be a tough time for them and Hamilton's economy.

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By Synxer (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 11:05:17

Religion and Politics do not belong in the same breathe. We live in a very confusing world, especially now. Adding non-sense to the mix is the employment of the false.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 11:49:47

Z Jones >> anyone who wasn't a complete asshat would of apologized by now for making such a rediculous argument, taking advantage of peoples misfortune to squeeze his own broken horn,

Why would I apologize for telling the truth? I believe that taking other people's money is wrong and I believe there are consequences for it. I also believe that the workers at Stelco who don't do the wrong things will not have a problem finding a new source of income, just maybe not in this city.

Jason >> God's not punishing Hamilton. He cares about Hamilton and it's people.

So using that logic, parents that punish their children don't care about them? Hardly. The truth is, pain exists to teach us things, not simply to hurt us. I believe that the healthy (not the old nor the sick) people of Hamilton have an obligation to work for the things they want to use. It is simply not moral to think that just because there are people in Toronto (and the rest of the GTA) who earn more, that they should have to subsidize the services we think we are entitled to.

Especially since the money that Hamilton receives is not given by these people out of generosity, but is taken by the government through the threat of force. What is the difference between that and going into a rich persons wallet and taking a few hundred dollars so you can pay for your tuition, etc? There is none. It's simply a rationalization to make you feel less guilty.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 12:39:56

please start posting under your real name for a response.

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By Synxer (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 13:14:48

A Smith,

You want the world to find it's way to a free market system that holds its case based the idea that everyone gets what they want and everyone wins, right? You bring facts and figures all the time into conversation. You want us to all see that this perspective works.

Those opinions are valid, regardless of side.

But now it seems we're getting into religious debate. It also seems that we're ramping into an argument tying Socialism to evil. If you read anything from the Bible, you'd have acknowledged entire sections which explained, with glorification, the sharing of wealth.

The right wing have a place for opinion, but Religious Right -- you must go.

I'm personally tired of the Religious Right damaging progress for humanity, education, environmental studies, etc.

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By But, What Do I Know... (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 14:01:04

>>>I believe that the healthy (not the old nor the sick) people of Hamilton have an obligation to work for the things they want to use. It is simply not moral to think that just because there are people in Toronto (and the rest of the GTA) who earn more, that they should have to subsidize the services we think we are entitled to.


Ummm, wasn't the Skydome, a structure built for the people of Toronto, financed by every taxpayer in Ontario, as was 407 Highway?

Look out GTA! Retribution is nigh!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 14:50:40

Synxer >> It also seems that we're ramping into an argument tying Sociali-sm to evil.

I think sociali-sm hurts most of the people who rely on it, so to the extent that Hamilton embraces transfers of wealth in our direction, then yes, I think it is hurting the people of this city. Take a look at any downtown where the primary source of income comes from government transfers and you will see the destruction that sociali-sm can bring.

Furthermore, inner cities like Detroit and Buffalo, are filled with young, relatively healthy people, so there is no rational explanation as to why there is such poverty. They have the ability to work, there simply isn't the investment in the community.

I personally believe good things come to those who do good, so to the extent that welfare recipients accept money stolen from others, it isn't good. Let me repeat, it's not a moral thing to accept money that has been stolen from others. No matter what our political leaders say, stealing is wrong, whether from a variety store, or from rich people, it is wrong to take the other people's property.

>> If you read anything from the Bible, you'd have acknowledged entire sections which explained, with glorification, the sharing of wealth.

Exactly, the key word there is "sharing". This implies that giving from the heart is what is important, far different than the system we have today. I completely agree that it is wrong to not feed the hungry and take care of the sick, but when certain people talk about building a 100 million dollar stadium stadium, or think the city should own golf courses, while there are actually people in the world who are currently dying from hunger, pardon me if I don't accept their sincerity about helping their fellow humans. Unless of course, their God ends at the city borders.

>> I'm personally tired of the Religious Right damaging progress for humanity, education, environmental studies, etc

If your referring to the religious people who support the nation state, then I agree with you. Get back to principles of right and wrong, helping people that actually need help and otherwise let people keep what they work for. Nobody accepts that you should be able to take a LCD T.V form an electronics store, simply because you can't afford one yourself, so why do we support taking other people's money, just so the people of Hamilton can enjoy new stadiums and convenient train service, it's completely indefensible. I'm talking to you Jason.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 15:41:03

If you think your concept of god cares about the economy, you've automatically given up a free market.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 16:03:31

Wow...just when I thought it couldn't get any worse.

But, What do I know? - thanks for the good laugh in the middle of this trainwreck. re: The skydome. LOL

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 16:21:49

Very childish behavior from Merulla and Bratina.

RIP Stelco.

By the way A Smith is right on the money. Hamilton's economic development plans for too long have been more about GETTING wealth rather than CREATING wealth. The result? Just take a walk in downtown Hamilton or along Barton street and ask me if this policy has worked.

A Smith, the views of most of the posters on this site are to be expected. Their incomes are probably to low to be even paying taxes, thus they think it is okay to STEAL the wealth CREATED by others.

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By NAFTA SHAFTA (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 16:51:33

Wealth is created by human labour and ecosystem processes. All capitalists do is exploit it. Manipulating wealth is very different from creating it.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 16:55:55

Way to back a winner.
You do of course realize that you're free to leave if you think your lot is so horrible.

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By But, What Do I Know... (anonymous) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 18:23:44

Hey everyone, instead of self-righteous arguing about morals would it not be more productive to think of solutions to the problem?

What ideas can be generated to make this a temporary shutdown?

If this is a permanent shutdown; what can be done to move Hamilton in a new direction to make this a better place for everyone?



Sigh....but, what do I know....

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2009 at 21:05:38

"What ideas can be generated to make this a temporary shutdown?"

Nothing, short of occupation and worker control. Now do you get it? We don't live in a democracy. The people of Hamilton and every other community have no real say over the decisions that affect them. The whole point of the corporate-globalist institution, including NAFTA, was to undercut the grassroots power of unions and communities.

Don't get me wrong. I'm optimistic about the long term. We just have to can the bullshit reformism - the "business community" and "stakeholder" wankery. The elites are waging class war against us. It's time to

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By Synxer (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 21:15:49

By the way A Smith is right on the money. Hamilton's economic development plans for too long have been more about GETTING wealth rather than CREATING wealth. The result? Just take a walk in downtown Hamilton or along Barton street and ask me if this policy has worked.

Ahh, that argument? The "Take a look downtown" argument. Relentless, timeless. Regardless of the foundation for that argument, many cities (if not all) can attest to a bad downtown experience in one way or another. "It's not the same as in the '50s!", say the boomers. Nothing is the same anymore. The way cities are developed, designed or how we treat our neighborhoods. Yet we just keep lingering and sit in constant nostalgia of the good ole days. Remember those?

A Smith, the views of most of the posters on this site are to be expected. Their incomes are probably to low to be even paying taxes, thus they think it is okay to STEAL the wealth CREATED by others.

The taxes. Always with the taxes. The shining day of low taxes will garner the spirit and high life we've always dreamed. The only thing standing in the way are the taxes! What a thought. Ever has a complex problem been solved with a one-tiered approach? Doubtful.

The one true answer is a resource-based economy. A resource-based economy trumps captialism, communism, libertarianism, socialism, etc.

This toppled tower of greed will once again be built with the greatest intentions.

Nick

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 04, 2009 at 22:11:45

yes, let's take a walk down Barton St and have a good look. After all, virtually ALL of the wealth generated in Hamilton in the past several decades has been generated along the Barton-Burlington-Bayfront corridor. Yup. Looks great.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted March 05, 2009 at 06:46:08

A Smith: I see that you have stirred up a lot of emotion.

Your arguement of equating the taking of a welfare cheque is the same as stealing is somewhat lame. Sometimes people need help to see them through the rough times. But I wonder if are really looking at the system and its set up, opposed to blaming those who may find themselves having to access it.

How do we help those people who have lost their jobs, well there are a number of things we can do. There are many grassroots initiatives out there to help navigate the system, education of your rights and obligations.

For those who have lost work, will be finding themselves accessing work that is temporary or precarious in nature, thus people need to know their rights under this system as well, information is the key to ensure that you are being treated fairly. Some employers will push the limits of labour standards and the current Ontario works system does not ensure that the person making the transition from social assistance to work to be employed by reputable business. I mean look at workfare, where they force people, out to work where they do not get paid, how does that help people?

Food security is another issue that will affect the families, there are community gardens that one can access for a minimal fee to help offset food worries.

There is also a program out there for those who entertain the notion of being self employed, one can learn the basics of running a small business. It is free and one can also have the opportunity to meet others going through the same experience.

Getting invovled in the community helps, as it gives you the feeling that you are not alone, I know for myself that getting out gave me the sense of empowerment, the opportunity to learn and to share as others in the community may be worse off then you. Being alone can be detrimental to ones being and make the person feel more vulnerable.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted March 05, 2009 at 09:10:49

Capitalist your statement about how much or little people earn is reprehensible and childish. It's almost as useful as "my daddy's bigger than your daddy". JonC is correct - if you feel like you're not welcome, you may leave.

I work for a very large company that used to be owned and operated by a Canadian and was sold to a US mill however when the takeover happened, they promised to maintain a hands off approach to us because we are, as a general rule, in the black (usually by a fair amount to). So the argument that selling to a US company or being owned by a US company automatically equates to a greater potential of job loss is fallacy. Last time I heard, when both Dofasco and Stelco were in Canadian hands the threat of major layoffs/shutdowns was there as well.

This is a good time to retool and rework our local economy so that it remains healthy in the future. Short term this really sucks and hurts a lot of people. Long term it provides people with an opportunity they might not have had before and gives Hamilton a chance to build a foundation that's broader than a steel worker's shoulders.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted March 05, 2009 at 16:04:59

Ok, lets look at some recent current events and see if we can pull some solutions/ideas etc..

I know some here won't agree but we have been handed (hopefully) a real opportunity with the Pan-Am Games. As long as the nay sayers like Mr. Merulla keep out of it, this whole project can be a transition period for this city.

Think of the construction jobs needed to not only build the Stadium but also the velodrome, new streets, sewers, watermains, houses, townhouses, sidewalks, streetlights, stores, restaurants etc..... Then the spinoff from those days of construction, area restaurants, cafes, cornerstores, hotels etc.. If it isn't a local Architectural firm, they will probably open a long term office in the area bringing employees and maybe hiring locally. Transit will probably even increase ridership. This will also help the surrounding communities which in turn helps the TAX base (sorry I mentioned taxes, lol).

So if this is used as a transition period (say 5 years) maybe our lame politicians can try to step up and figure out a true direction for the city in that time frame.

I feel for the Stelco employees, I have several friends who will be hurting I'm sure. Lets all try to be productive and sort this out because lets face it, there's a 90% chance those jobs aren't coming back.

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By koliphant (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2009 at 08:45:21

Mr. Merulla's comments aren't surprising, considering his track record of putting his foot in his mouth. This time though he's gone too far. The Pan-Am games are historically a spring board for athletes heading to the Olympics and a new stadium along the lines of BMO Field in which the City of Toronto and the tax payers own it is needed badly. Hamilton needs to entertain all ideas for prosperity and stop acting like a third rate democracy run by fourth rate politicians with no vision and no morals.

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