So why did Bethlehem Steel fail?

    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. 
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