Our History

The seeds of this great union were planted in the late 1800s by our fathers and mothers, our grandparents, our great-grandparents and so on. They were seeds of commitment, solidarity and a common interest to fight for better conditions for working men and women everywhere. Through wars and recessions, good times and bad times, we established our family roots: better wages, job security, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. Thanks to the strength and activism of our members, our branches reached out to lead movements to stop child labour, provide aid to injured workers, universal healthcare, fight for retirees, stand up for human rights and so much more. Today, we are a strong union, bold and proud. We continue to believe in better, and together, we are still standing up and fighting back for everyone. Review highlights of our proud history by clicking on the decades in the timeline below.


October 1935: The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) established its own organizing committee for paperworkers. Read More


May 22, 1942: By 1942, with 700,000 members in Canada and the U.S., SWOC was ready to become an autonomous, international union. Delegates attended a SWOC convention in Cleveland to create the United Steelworkers of America. Read More


1950: Steelworkers negotiated a 40-hour workweek. The two first plants were Stelco in Hamilton and Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie. Read More


July 31, 1961: Steelworkers join other trade unionists to help create the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada. Read More


1974: Uranium miners in Elliott Lake took action for the necessary health and safety protections that the company refused to provide. Read More


1980: Five women in Hamilton file an Ontario Human Rights Comission complaint to force Stelco to hire women production workers. These were some of the best-paying, most-prestigious industrial jobs in Canada. Read More


1990s: The Women of Steel becomes formalized in the union structure with the creation of a woman’s leadership course and committees at each member local. Read More


January 11, 2000: More than 4,000 administrative and technical support staff at the University of Toronto ratify their first collective agreement as members of United Steelworkers Local 1998. Read More


2011: The Steelworkers Vote program that trains and educates members to become engaged in the political process helped the federal NDP become the Official Opposition. Read More

Books, links and articles