The Way It Is

Blue Collar

Blue Collar

It’s a fact that the entire city of Hamilton was built by blue collar workers. Even today, when the service sector leads, especially in the healthcare fields, the majority of the city’s workforce consists of the toughened blue collar middle-class. Almost all of Hamilton’s neighbourhoods are mainly populated by blue collar workers and their families, like Central, where I shot this cleaner toiling late at night in Lloyd D. Jackson Square Shopping Mall.

Some are unionized, many aren’t. Many are great workers, others are downright lousy and don’t last long anywhere. Some take care of themselves, most have extra mouths to feed. Fifty per cent are decent people worthy of respect while the other fifty per cent are worse than animals. A large per cent are born right here. The rest are immigrants. Some move on to better things, some try so hard to advance themselves but are constantly kicked in the teeth. There are also those who reach a certain level in their careers that they’re comfortable with, and never try to go beyond that.

Blue collar workers are people I identify with the most. Every friend I ever had in life either came from hard working blue collar families or service sector parents, like my mother. She was a single mum–a divorcee, who started her professional life as a Jamaican cop but spent most of it as a British-trained Canadian nurse while furthering her education. My wife, who has lived in Hamilton all her life, came from a blue collar family. Her father worked at steel foundries.

These are real people. The good ones don’t get nearly as much respect by society as they really deserve. Most of them aren’t heroes, heroines, villains or villainesses. They’re antiheroes, and I’ve been one of them for many years.

Blue collar workers didn’t just build this city; they and farmers built this entire country.

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7 thoughts on “The Way It Is

    • Watching him, my initial impression was that he was trapped in a hall or mirrors and forced to clean in there for all eternity. It was a Rod Serling anthology type of idea. It was immediately afterward that I began to see this man as an admirable soul while everyone else had either gone off to party or go to bed.

      I imagined that somewhere in the city might be this man’s family, and that they would be taken care of because although he too may be tired or want to play, he works the night shift.

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