The Workers’ History Museum is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2019 Pat McGrath Scholarship. She is Katharine Clark

Katharine Clark is working on her Master of Science in Statistics at McMaster University in Hamilton. She is a teaching assistant and a new member of the union for teaching assistants. This is giving her first hand experience in the labour movement.   She submitted a photo of the steel mills in Hamilton. Here are her reasons on how they show labour’s contribution to the community:

I have submitted a photo I took from the Niagara Escarpment, looking down upon Lake Ontario and the steel plants of Hamilton. This photo highlights the importance of the steel industry to the landscape and community of Hamilton.

Hamilton is visually beautiful, with a juxtaposition of both natural features and industry. It is bordered by Lake Ontario in the North and by the Niagara Escarpment in the South. If you look across the lake on a clear day, you can see Toronto, and if you look very closely in my photo, you can see the outline of the CN Tower. Hamilton is called the Waterfall Capital of the World, because it has over 100 waterfalls within its borders. Hamilton is home to natural forests and the Royal Botanical Gardens, and it is an ideal location to immerse oneself in nature.

In addition to its natural landmarks, Hamilton is also home to several manufactured ones. Stelco and Dofasco are the major steel companies in Hamilton. Together, they produce 60% of the steel in Canada, which is why Hamilton is the Steel and Metals Manufacturing Capital of Canada. Situated on the shores of Lake Ontario and in view of the Burlington Skyway, the plants have a large visual presence. They are as important to the landscape as they are to the community. Steel makes up a large part of Hamilton’s economy. Anyone in Hamilton either works in a steel plant or knows someone who does.

The steelworkers of Hamilton have a long and important history in Canada. They have integral ties to the beginning of the labour movement. Even before unionization, the steelworkers banded together to fight for better working conditions. In 1872, they marched the streets of Hamilton to fight for nine-hour days. Later, the union successfully lobbied for better workers’ safety. It is without a doubt that the steelworkers of Hamilton have had profound contributions to the community and economy of Hamilton and Canada.

The steel plants are ever-present, not just in our sight, but in our experience. Their contrast with Hamilton’s natural beauty is stunning and it is one of the reasons why I have chosen to call Hamilton home.

Her community involvement is explained by this:

I am a first-year teaching assistant for a third-year undergraduate statistics course at McMaster University. In this job, I teach tutorials, facilitate discussions, and help answer students’ questions. I hope to help students understand the material by providing different ways to think about problems.

This job has been my first experience in a union. We just underwent the collective bargaining process in negotiating the new collective agreement. This has given me renewed appreciation for the importance of labour unions. My TA union has been instrumental in ensuring that TAs receive adequate pay and hours so that we can support ourselves and also succeed academically. I hope to take on a leadership role in the union as I become more experienced as a teaching assistant.