Hundreds of Steelworkers and other supporters held three days of rallies in Brantford in mid-September, drawing widespread media and political attention to a two-year strike by USW Local 1-500 members.
The September 15-17 rallies provided a major boost to the 84 courageous Steelworkers who for 26 months have resisted outrageous concession demands – 25-per-cent clawbacks in wages and benefits – from their employer, Engineered Coated Products (ECP).
The rallies also drew attention to the blatant need to bring anti-scab legislation back to Ontario, where corporations have become increasingly brazen in their attacks on working families. Since it came to power in 2003, the Liberal government has routinely sat back as more and more corporations reject collective bargaining in favour of union-busting tactics such as recruiting scabs and private, strikebreaking security forces.
"We need Ontario to adopt anti-scab legislation, like they have in B.C. and Quebec," said ECP striker Don Bowen, USW Local 1-500 vice-president. "We need a government that cares."
The publicity generated by the September rallies in support of the ECP strikers prompted the company to agree to return to the bargaining table in October. However, it soon became clear the resumption of talks was a cynical ploy by ECP, which demanded even greater concessions, thereby ensuring no settlement could be reached.
The September rallies, organized by the USW, the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Brantford and District Labour Council, drew union members and other supporters from across the province.
ECP's scab operations were shut down for two days as Steelworkers were joined by hundreds of members of unions including CUPE, CAW, ATU, ONA, LIUNA, the teachers' federations, as well as our provincial and federal New Democratic Party allies. Tens of thousands of dollars were raised for the strikers, including funds donated by delegates to the District 6 conference in Halifax in August.
The final day of rallies featured a march to the Brantford courthouse, where ECP lost its bid for an injunction that would have eliminated picketing at its scabbed plant.
For 26 months, our Local 1-500 sisters and brothers have demonstrated incredible character and solidarity – not a single member has crossed the picket line to join the ECP scabs.
As the Brantford rallies proved, support for our sisters and brothers – and for the campaign for anti-scab legislation in Ontario – is growing. All Steelworkers and the entire labour movement remain committed to winning this fight to restore fairness and justice for working families.