This afternoon, Hamilton City Council met in closed session for four hours to discuss the pending strike.
Immediately upon adjournment, I asked Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath:
“You were on Regional Council last time we had an HSR strike. I recall the strike ended after you and Alderman Wilson were in Regional Chair Cooke’s office to say that there was no more money, the final offer was final. Where are we at now? Where do we go? What are you doing as mayor to try to resolve this situation?”
“We’re in a situation now where it looks like the members will be hitting the picket lines tomorrow. It’s it’s not a situation that anybody’s happy about, I don’t think, but the staff did the best they could. And the Council made a decision in terms of the path forward and hopefully, before the clock strikes 12:01 [a.m.]. We’re always at the table, we’re always ready to go back to the table to to prevent a work stoppage. It’s not only going to be difficult for the workers, obviously, but also for the Hamiltonians.”
Mayor Horwath says Council has given staff a bargaining mandate and they will respect the bargaining process.
“We were very clear in terms of our offer and so we’re the members of [ATU Local 107] and so now we’re, we’re at an impasse.”
Mayor Horwath says she will issue a further statement later this evening [Wednesday].
Alderman Andrea Horwath was Key to Ending the 12-Week Strike 25 Years Ago
Twenty-five years ago, twelve weeks into an unprecedented HSR strike, Regional Chairman Terry Cooke needed to find a way to send a message to ATU 107 that Regional Council’s final offer was, indeed, final.
Here how Cooke recollected events in 2007:
I called a media conference in my office, flanked by councillors Andrea Horwath and Dave Wilson. Wilson was a former president of the local labour council and he and Horwath (now an NDP MPP) were considered publicly to be the most union-friendly members of council.
Wilson and Horwath were blunt in their public statements. They strongly conveyed the message that council’s final offer was reasonable and was not going to change no matter how long the union stayed out.
Within a matter of days the transit union’s resolve crumbled and the membership accepted an offer almost identical to what the region had on the table when the strike began.
Dave Wilson was a Ward 4 Hamilton Alderman. [No relation to now Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson, who is also Cooke’s spouse.]
Ward 2 Alderman Horwath was best known at the time for her social activism.
She co-chaired the largest protest in Hamilton’s history, the 1996 Hamilton Action Days, against the provincial Conservative Mike Harris government.
Today’s Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 President Eric Tuck was one of the bus operators who walked the picket lines.
Tuck was quoted in the front-page Hamilton Spectator story when the strike ended. Here is what reporter Lee Prokaska wrote:
Driver Eric Tuck, 37, believes drivers and mechanics were getting worn down after being out on the picket line for three months.
“I think it’s the best we’re going to get under the circumstances,” said Tuck, who has worked for the HSR 10 years. “It’s been a long, hard fight and, after three months, we had to take a serious look at it. … Families were hurting and that was part of it.”
A few days later, in a follow-up story about how people felt regarding the strike’s outcome, Prokaska interviewed Tuck again:
Ten-year veteran driver Eric Tuck had hoped to see more in the new deal. But in the end, Tuck believes it was a worthwhile fight.
“It was necessary for us to make this fight at this time,” he said. “During the last two contracts, we’ve been taking steps backward. We’ve stopped doing that with this contract. They’re small steps, but they’re steps forward and that’s important.”
A Long Strike Means a Few Days to Restart Service
When the strike ended in January 1999, The Hamilton Spectator reported it took a few days to resume service. Buses had to be inspected, oil checked, batteries changed, etc.
Some bus operators drove empty buses on city streets to recertify.
Strike is Scheduled to Begin Thursday Morning
No talks are planned between the City and the Union. There are informal off-the-record conversations between the sides.
Maybe a miracle happens.
It looks like Hamiltonians will be without bus service for the foreseeable future, and, similar to 1999, now-Mayor Andrea Horwath may need to get more involved to bring a resolution.
TPR will continue to provide updates on the HSR labour disruption. Sign up for our newsletter to keep informed.
Production Details v. 1.0.0 Published: November 8, 2023 Last edited: November 8, 2023 Author: Joey Coleman Edit Record v. 1.0.0 original version