There goes another plant

Sometimes when you watch working people being mauled, degraded and blamed for everything from bad luck to bad weather, you have to ask yourself: when is enough enough?

Well, the owners of Hamilton Specialty Bar got a fleeting sample on May 4. These offshore vulture capitalists, bottom feeders who took possession of the old Slaters Steel plant in Hamilton, hung a sign over the door announcing “A New Beginning.” They promptly began chiseling wages and working conditions, only to get bitten in the ankle by the members of Local 4752, United Steelworkers. These 320 workers have accommodated more than trivial concessions over the last three years but guess what — the beast wants more.

The plant is scheduled to close on May 29, but the company decided to cut retiree benefits, stop vacation payments, and other nice little goodies just to get the party started early.

On May 4, the local president, Bill Baker, in a carefully planned move, initiated a plant occupation/sit-in that lasted several hours. There were close to a hundred supporters outside, including Ontario Federation of Labor President Wayne Samuelson and Steelworkers Ontario Director Wayne Fraser.

The sit-in ended when the union was able to negotiate retiree benefits, vacation pay and unpaid wages until May 29 when the plant closes. After that?

Meantime the last producer of stainless steel in Canada is going, going, gone. Liberal Premier McGuinty was in Hamilton that day but refused an invitation to talk with the workers. Tory Party leader John Tory wasn’t in Hamilton, but showed his concern by announcing that when he is elected he will punish people who break the law with illegal occupations. He coupled this attack by including the Six Nations and the Steelworkers in the same threat. Good company, brothers and sisters.

The departure of our last stainless steel producer apparently is of no interest to McGuinty or Tory. Free trade, neoliberal agenda, de-industrialism…. Perhaps our brothers and sisters in the Third World should get ready for the inclusion of a rather large land mass with a moderate population.

Sam Hammond
Ontario, Canada

End the travel ban

I read Sonja de Vries’ interesting report (PWW 4/21-27) on the travel of the “Wallace Brigade” to Cuba in opposition to the Cuban travel ban, and wondered why the legislative efforts, demonstration efforts, letter-writing efforts to end that damnable ban on travel to Cuba do not have a litigation component invoked in the current context.

Currently there exists a favorable climate consisting in part of:

1. Substantial segment of Congress opposed to the ban.

2. Governors and businessmen of several farming states opposed to the ban.

3. Catholic Church opposed to the travel ban. (True to the extent that the public pronouncements of the Bishop of Orlando, Fla., expresses the sentiment of the church.)

4. South Florida Cuban American division on the travel ban according to reported opinion polls.

Wide participation in the litigation is possible:

A. Attendance at court hearings on the litigation, open to all.

B. Amicus briefs circulated for signatures (format similar to the Stockholm Peace Petition) and capable of being filed with the clerk of the court by any organization (church, union local, individuals, etc.), open to all.

C. Discussions within legal associations and law schools.

L.W. Holt
Via e-mail

Iranians bike for peace

I noticed today that you had a story about two Iranians back in 2002 who were traveling the world on their bike to bring a message of peace to people around the world.

I wanted to let you know about another group of Iranians who are on another peace campaign trip.

They are going on a bike tour around Western Europe and intend to arrive in America as long as they get a visa.

During this journey, which began on May 10 from Rome, the group called “Miles For Peace” will travel city-by-city across four European countries (Italy, France, Germany and the UK) and the United States to communicate the pacifist message of Iranian people to other nations around the world.

The cyclists will also offer a handmade emblem of “Miles for Peace” as a symbol of friendship on behalf Iranian people, to the mayors of the host cities as elected representatives of European and American people.

They have an active web site,, with full info about their plans, their manifesto and more.

They gain moral support more than anything else, by encouraging people to sign up in their site and to host their banner.

We thought your site would be one of the best places to promote them and let their voice be heard to American people.

S. Shayan
Via e-mail

Take note

Just ran across this in a “tabloid book” entitled “I Am Everyone I Meet” by James P. White:

“Last night, riding in a taxi from the airport to my apartment, I began a conversation with the driver. He had lived in Moscow during the Communist period. He told me how beautiful Moscow was, of the simplicity and pleasure of not having to buy an apartment (and Moscow is all apartments, he said), of having health and dental care paid for. He looked back on the Communist period as delightful, then spoke of the super-rich building multimillion dollar homes outside the city now. He spoke of the financial inequality that made him leave Russia. I had never heard anyone praise the communist system and was not sure what I thought of what he said. But his nostalgia was real and the way he looked back on his experience touched me. He couldn’t afford to buy an apartment or a house in L.A., so he thought of the Russia he had left.”

Betty Smith
New York NY