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What happend to the American Steel Industry?

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nickshepDEM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 12:07 PM
Original message
What happend to the American Steel Industry?
Edited on Sat Nov-12-05 12:09 PM by nickshepDEM
Ive always been curious as to what happened to the American Steel Industry. I live very close to what used to be a very strong and important steel mill. At its peak Bethlehem Steel (North Point) employeed over 20,000 employees. Heck, they even had a town of their own on the land located around steel mill. Individual houses and schools for employees only. Now the mill only employees around 1,000 to 2,000 employees.

Anyway, what is your opinion of the fall of the American Steel Industry?
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rockymountaindem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 12:10 PM
Response to Original message
1. This is something I have also wondered about
I look forward to watching this thread develop.
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nickshepDEM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 12:15 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Me too.
I have a crazy neighbor who actually used to work at the steel mill I described in the post above. He blames it solely on Reagan. He says, under Reagan the plant went from 20,000 employees to 8,000 in a matter of 6 years. Yeah, he's a hardcore democrat. About as hardcore as they come.
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sendero Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 12:16 PM
Response to Original message
3. The same thing that is going to ..
... happen to every other manufacturing activity in our economy, it is going overseas where labors costs are a tiny fraction of what they have to be here.

And, a large segment of the service industries too.
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notadmblnd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 12:18 PM
Response to Original message
4. china has it?
nt
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mestup Donating Member (756 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 12:19 PM
Response to Original message
5. Overseas low labor costs
http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/rcah/html/a...

In 1901, under the leadership of J. Pierpont Morgan and Elbert H. Gary, the United States Steel Corporation, the largest industrial enterprise on earth, was established. Capitalized at $1.4 billion, it controlled more than 60 percent of the American market.

The steel industry continued to be the measure of the size and strength of national economies until well after World War II. American steel production peaked in 1969 when the country produced 141,262,000 tons. But new, more efficient steel plants with much lower labor costs were being built abroad, and these, helped by a sharp drop in transportation expenses, began to give American steel companies increasing competition.

A major shakeout of the industry ensued. By 1975 American steel production had plunged by 37 percent to only 89 million tons. The industry, however, still employed 457,000 workers at very high wages. By 1988 production had rebounded to 102,700,000 tons, but the number of steelworkers had declined to 169,000. Annual steel production per worker had more than tripled in thirteen years.

American steel was once again competitive on world markets. But steel would never again hold the central place in the economy it had held for a hundred years.
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madrchsod Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 12:26 PM
Response to Original message
6. hmmm..former steel worker here
Edited on Sat Nov-12-05 12:39 PM by madrchsod
it`s 40 years of information on the decline of our industry.
rebuilt europe-europe built new mills
plastics
investments in foreign countries steel industry-cheap labor-raw materials.
new technology in steel making-less workers
more use of plastics and other materials
exporting industries
trade policy
no investment in new techs in the steel industry in the mid 70`s to mid 80`s
high labor costs versus non union plants
no markets for american made steel because of cost

i worked at a steel mill that was over 125 years old and they slowly bleed to death. the mill was bought then rebuilt and now employees about 400 people ,in 1960 there were 9000 employees
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Igel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 12:45 PM
Response to Original message
7. High wages, high costs for materials, low cost for selling steel,
and an inability to go high tech.

I grew up in Edgemere, both parents were steelworkers at Sparrows Point (not North Point ... that's up the road a bit); both grandfathers, and all my great-grandfathers. 32k employees at one point, '60s. There's even a book about it. I was even born during a big (multi-month) steelworker strike, and my mother helped launch a class-action suit against Beth Steel.

There was this mad rush in the '70s to upgrade Sparrows Point with the L furnace. It failed: they went for volume, and couldn't keep up with the technology and prices; designer steels were the rage, and the L couldn't produce them to spec. They flubbed quality control too often (ma was in the 'chem lab', dad in the 'physical lab'). And it was too expensive, they kept losing contracts. Moreover, the economy was tanking, so borrowing money was at high interest rates, and right when they needed a huge influx of contracts, there were few out for bid.

My parents--father of indeterminate political affiliation, my ma a stolid dem--both blame the unions and management. Which gets more blame depends on the day of the week. All profits had to go to either increased benefits or to shareholders. Grievances took forever to arbitrate, and they had trouble transferring staff or disposing of workers that were ill-trained and, what's worse, poorly trainable and frequently had become incompetent as the technology advanced and they didn't. BS lost class action suits that they should never have incurred the liability for (i.e., they just shouldn't have discriminated). They didn't prioritize upgrading equipment and staff, reinvesting profits and fighting the Board of trustees or the unions sufficiently.

It was really sad--when I went to Sparrows Point High in the '70s all my classmates were in a sort of daze. They could read well enough for steelworkers in the '50s, but nothing high tech--very little science, little math, no curiosity or desire to do more than get a high-paid steelworker job, get a car, and eventually a wife, a house, and kids. They each had one egg, in one pathetic basket: be a steelworker. But it was obvious Bethlehem Steel was going to die a slow death, and nobody was ready for, or interested in, college. 6 or 7 years later, Sparrows Point High was a different place: Beth Steel was effectively, closed, Lodge Forest and Fort Howard were largely "de-steelworkered."
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Retired AF Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 12:49 PM
Response to Original message
8. Simple
Other countries found cheaper and more efficient ways to make it.
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Lefty48197 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 01:01 PM
Response to Original message
9. Slave wage labor used in some other countries of the world
Of course, the Republicans call that "competition".
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spindrifter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 01:03 PM
Response to Original message
10. We know that American steel
died and the reasons above pretty much sum up why. But do we know anything about the investment in offshore steel? In other words, what American industrialists invested abroad in the cheaper-to-run mills?
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Historic NY Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-12-05 01:42 PM
Response to Original message
11. This might explain some of it we are the dumping ground for cheap
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