by Jeff Swisher
As the 1950s slowly came to an end, the steel producing companies saw their industry slowly failing and in direct need of intervention. The industry was analyzing man hours per ton and ultimately declining plant capacity starting in 1955. They were watching the labor costs per ton of steel steadily on the rise. Newly found markets outside the United States were competing not just globally but domestically also. Steel producing companies, were concerned about the growing obsolesces of the steel industry, globally. The newly created competitors from Europe supported by the Marshall plan quickly recovered the European Steel Industry. Exacerbating the issue, the overall outlook from the American industrialists, was that a serious profit loss was soon to emerge. As a result, the steel producers felt that the only solution lay in technology improvements that would ultimately lower hours per ton, better government terms to depreciate technology and tax incentives.
With a war between two sides, there must be an alternative view to the same future. To steel union, however, the plight and plea of the steel producers seemed disingenuous. Labor leaders were quick to point out that the reduction in profits were only a function of less plant captivity. Specifically, for the USW (United Steel Workers) they disputed that higher wages and benefits made it still possible to compete with foreign steel production. The union also claimed that increased wages for its members would raise consumer buying power which was absolutely necessary to stimulate the economy. As 1959 enters the steel contract between the steel producers and USW would end. Ultimately, the words of Grant McConnell would ring true, calling 1959 the “year of truth in the steel industry.”
As both sides dig in the author of The Decline of American Steel, Paul Tiffany noted, “They handed us an issue”,”I couldn’t have written the script better myself.” Just in a movie script you have a different characters, a differing scenes, spoke and unspoken goals, and an insurmountable confrontation that both sides must conquer.