Fact:
At the same time as the construction of the
Sydney plan, another steel plant was constructed in Sydney Mines by the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company, (Scotia).

 

Fact:
The Scotia plant in Sydney Mines was a basic iron and steel producer feeding its finishing mills to New Glasgow, N.S.

 

Fact:
.Ten 50-ton Open Hearth furnaces of the tilting variety gave Disco the most advanced steel making process of the day.

 
 
 
 

 

Brief History of Local 1064 - THe United Steel Workers Association
By Frank Smith July 4, 1985


When the Sydney Steel Plant commenced operations as the Dominion Iron and Steel Corporation early in the winter of 1901, the new plant, according to the very promotional literature handed out at the time, was thought certain, because of its unique tidewater location and proximity to seemingly limitless deposits of iron ore, coking coal and limestone to be on the threshold of becoming a steel center of world significance with glowing prospects of unparalleled future prosperity, not only for its investors but for the community in which it was situated as well.
Its promise as a supplier of world markets was, to a considerable extent, realized, but came rather short of the early heady predictions. As to the matters of financial returns, the one thing certain here was that the workers’ share was such that they were forced to strike the plant on June 1, 1904.
The workers, organized at the time in the Provincial Workers Association, battled for a better deal as best they could but to no avail. What with the intervention from all sides on the company’s behalf the Military, the Police, the Federal and Provincial Authorities along with the recruitment of local strike-breakers – the steelworkers, overwhelmed, were compelled to give up the fight and return to the job on the company’s terms. The strike had lasted about seven weeks.
Despite bland assurances that none would be discriminated against, a number of the leaders were nevertheless fired and blacklisted. Nothing appears to have come down concerning these men, due, no doubt, to the sad fact that retreating into anonymity was one of the few recourses left to those so circumstanced in those days.
In any case, this particular strike would seem to have terminated almost as a closed incident having no discernible links with anything that followed after. Likely, the lapse of thirteen years before organization was again attempted along with the advent of the first world war accounts for this.
No matter. The long wait notwithstanding the desire for a real union remained strong, though understandably kept under wraps. All that was required was a favorable opportunity for a new start. In 1917, the amalgamated iron, steel and tin workers appeared on the scene and the workers prepared for renewed struggle against Disco.
The company attempted to forestall this latest effort by trotting out what was euphemistically referred to as industrial committees but the workers decisively rejected what was transparently a company ploy. This was the first of two attempts to foist on the Steelworkers a plan of “Representation” that could only mean for them {to use an analogy suggested by the claim made for a certain other variety of soap} 99 44/100% Pure Company Domination.
The work of building the Union, Punctuated by a number of work stoppages and marked by increasing militancy generally, proceeded steadily until the summer of 1923 when matters finally came to a head.


Other than setting down a few recollections I have, myself of the 1923 strike, I do not propose to deal with it here except to emphasize one or two essential points – First its lasting impression on the community and second, the re-introduction by the company after the strike was broken of the same old shoddy bill of goods, known variously now as the Bischoff Plan, the Plant Council and by other names not mentioned in polite society. However, it was to serve a very useful purpose later on after a number of militants had managed to get themselves elected to it.
This plan, as above noted, was the brain-child of one Carl Bischoff, a company official at the time and as previously noted, a similar one had been rejected by the men.
This latest drive to push it through came in the aftermath of the strike when terror, blacklists and general demoralization were the order of the day. In such conditions, its temporary imposition was inevitable.
As is well known, under this scheme “Action” on Grievances was pretty much limited to the replacement of burned out light bulbs and the filling of pot holes on the company roads. The bringing up of matters such as wages, hours of work and conditions on the job and meaning it, was decidedly thought of as “Not Cricket” and given short shift, the excuse being invariably, that the company was losing money due to adverse market conditions. Such assertions were neither believed nor accepted by the workers and served merely to fuel their growing resentment and impatience for militant meaningful response to their grievances.

continued..

 

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