So why did Bethlehem Steel
Many different theories exist for what caused the Steel
to fail. John Strohmeyer suggests that one reason was union demands.
By 1982 the steelworkers made $26.29 per hour (the highest industrial wages
in the world), plus health care, dental care, eye care, supplemental unemployment
benefits, and a liberal vacation plan. The senior half even received
an additional 13-week paid vacation every five years! (76-7) Beyond
this, clause 2B was still intact, which had prevented workers from being
laid off in the interest of efficiency or technological change. Also,
decades of excessive executive expenditure were no longer justified by
profit. Six digit salaries and extensive "perks" that were common
in the Loop had to be cut. As retired chief executive officer Lewis
Foy commented, "The industry made a helluva [sic] lot of mistakes. Ö We
didnít keep ourselves lean enough." (103) Still present was the
competition from the minimills and foreign steel, which together supplied
nearly half of the nationís steel. The market for steel was also
changing as the automobile industry made greater use of plastics and other
light-weight materials. The appliance industry also moved from steel
to plastics, and construction no longer demanded as many structural beams.
The Cold War with Russia brought no new military orders, leaving Bethlehem
Steel to search for niches in the private sector. Generally, the
circumstances around the steel industry had changed over the last twenty
years, and the company had failed to change with them.