John Hoerr: And the Wolf Finally Came The Decline and Fall of the American Steel Industry Pitt Series in Social and Labor History



When I first moved to Pittsburgh in 1990 26 years ago I bought this book It had been published just a few years before and I thought reading it would ive me insight into the place But at 620 pages it was a daunting prospect I Hiding in the Bathroom got pregnant with my first child shortly thereafter and the time to read especially books like this dwindled as my familyrewSo several years of an empty nest later I finally picked it up And I m so lad I did It is a fantastic read Perhaps not a page turner for most people but if you have a curiosity about the rise and fall of industrial America and wonder what happened to turn the steel belt into the rust belt it is a fascinating and reliable journalistic accountNow these many years later my intimacy with this place inspired a close reading as if it were the biography of a relative I work for my adopted city now On the river fronts that once housed the steel mills and the jobs of hundreds of thousands I help the City build office parks and shopping centers I look at economic and population statistics and trends routinely as part of my job So this book provided insight into the power structures of the region that I work to redevelop and the communities along the Monongahela River valley that I now know so well What is just as interesting even if you don t live here is Hoerr s insights into management and political philosophies of the leaders of the companies and the unions His thesis when management disregards the innovative and collaborative potential of it s labor force that labor force disconnects from the basic economics of the industry and this disconnect is poisonous when the economics of the business falters Management also ets entrenched in power struggles Labor and management et invested not in the prosperity of the company but in their relationship as adversaries across a bargaining table Too obsessed with preserving wage and benefits structures of a time of prosperity labor won battles without realizing it was in a war Management was too heavy handed and authoritarian to appeal to its labor leadership and its members as partners in the health and longevity of the business Everyone lost Especially the communities where steel is produced who continue all these years later to be challenged by these igantic losses that the end of major manufacturing wrought on the Mon Valley and beyond I thought every one of those 620 pages was worth reading Hoerr is not a terrific writer but he is a terrific journalist with an attention to detail and a keen analytical mind He cares deeply about the Mon Valley where he Becca and the Prisoners Cross (The Copernicus Legacy grew up but picks no sides There s enough fault too around in his telling Everyone. A veteran reporter on American labor John P Hoerr analyzes the spectacular and tragic collapse of the steel.

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G the 1970 s the author acted as if everything was fine until Reagan lowered taxes in 1981 thus causing the closure of many plants No one can make that claim explicitly so the author stretched the story out with digressions and needless details about negotiations and union elections This book was written in time for the 1988 elections It would have been informative had the author eschewed politics and focused on causes and effectsTo understand the decline one must focus on the steel strike of 1959 and the layoffs and closings of the 1970 s The author references these events only in passing before continuing on his heavily footnoted narrative of the battles of the 1980 s By the 1980 s those battles were the euivalent of survivors fighting each other over the last can of beans after a nuclear war The mills were down to their last few employees fighting over how much of their previous The Commodore (Aubrey/Maturin, gains toive back in order to save the remnants of the industry One does not explain the war by narrating the battle over the survivors rations that takes place among the rubble When I was in sixth rade My Weekly Reader had a story about the steel strike in Pittsburgh Although I lived in Pittsburgh it was a shock to realize that NEWS was happening in Pittsburgh not in Washington DC or NYC When I started this tome I had no idea that Labor History was a field of study So I can t say I Really Enjoyed this book But it is very well researched and looks at all the reasons for the Decline of the American Steel Industry Very well doneOne day before I finished it President Trump announced tariffs on foreign producers of steel and aluminum I enjoyed this book thoroughly although I was at times exhausted by the level of detail in it It is also a useful book at this point in time when Donald Trump is promising the restoration of the American steelmaking and coal mining industries It is worthwhile to recall the reasons that led to the massive contraction in American steelmaking during the 1980s and afterwards The author apportions blame to both the management of steel companies as well as to the United Steelworkers union Both rew complacent during the 40s 50s and 60s when the major steel companies in America operated under cartel like conditions When competition eventually came from both foreign steelmakers as well as non unionized minimills in the US they were caught completely unprepared this was an amazing book if you are from Pittsburgh and The Texas Rangers Heiress Wife grew up or lived thru the decline A balanced appraisal from a different angle of the decimation of the US steel industry in the latter half of the 20th Century Well worth a read for economists historians alike. Tween management and labor made it impossible for the industry to adapt to a rapidly changinglobal economy.

He writes about is called to account in the failure of his lifetime The book is a cautionary tale about the abuse of power the failure to innovate and be flexible and the ostrich impulses of a parochial politic leadership which plays bingo while Rome burns The scale of the defeat is as big as the prosperity it once treated as Her Outback Protector (Men of the Outback godiven Labor s victory over the companies lasted merely a Eternal Quest generation And it s losses continue to ripple through the Pittsburgh landscape to this very day Parts of this book wereood the author The Widows Little Secret grew up in Post World War II Mon Valley and describes life and culture in the Unionized steel towns vividly and with an Extensive but insightful history of American manufacturing using steel as the focus This book attempts to chronicle the decline of the American steel industry The author focuses on labor negotiations during the 1980 s work stoppages during the 1980 s and a detailed account of the USW election to replace the deceased Roger McBride During the course of the book he digresses into some USW history and the history of various mill towns along the Monongahela River He also spends aood deal of space with numerous digressions into the activities of other unions including the UMW the UAW and the air traffic controller strike of 1981 The book with footnotes covers 680 pages During these 680 pages the author completely misses the point The reader ets 680 pages of trees and almost no forest The book is flawed in two major respects 1 The American steel industry collapsed basically for one reason the wages that the companies were forced to pay were at least 1000 higher than the market could bear and 1000 higher than a level at which the companies could compete with foreign steel makers The American steel industry had dealt with this problem for decades and continuously lost market share to foreign competition While the 1000 number can be found in the book in a discussion of labor negotiations at one point the author spent most of the book attempting to work around the issue of union wages and their effect upon competition The author spent 680 pages trying to distract from this one basic issue Had he dealt with the issue head on the author could have saved hundreds of pages Other book length studies have demonstrated the industry decline with a few charts and raphs related to wages costs and other measurable factors2 The author several times tried to blame the decline on Reaganomics He made these passing references despite several citations in the book to massive layoffs during the 1970 s a decade in which Reagan was not yet president Despite hundreds of thousands of workers losing their jobs durin. Industry in the 1980s And the Wolf Finally Came demonstrates how an obsolete and adversarial relationship be.

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