"The Last Supper"

    So how did Bethlehem Steel fare with ever escalating labor wages and new competition?  For the first time in nearly a century, the Steel had to reduce its production from 23.7 million tons in 1973 to 21.0 million tons in 1978.  (unpaged)  In early 1975, the first Bethlehem operation was proposed for elimination.  Bethlehem Steel Offices and Logo This was the Fabricated Steel Construction, Bethlehem’s flagship division, which had built such national landmarks as New York’s Chase-Manhattan Bank, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  (108-10)  This signified the end of the great era of steel.  Other divisions were soon reduced or closed after Chairman Lewis Foy took a $750,000,000 write-off in 1977.  In August of that year, over 7,000 blue collar workers were cut from the payroll.  Yet reduction of the general laborers was not enough since decades of personnel and expenses had accumulated in the previously protected Loop.  The fateful day for over 2,500 white collar workers at Bethlehem Steel was  September 30, 1977, "Black Friday".  Dismissal notices were issued to these elite of the Steel, including 800 in Martin Towers and other Bethlehem headquarters.  (124-5)  This was a drastic move which affected hundreds of local families, as well as the businesses they patronized and groups they supported.  After Foy completed these reductions, he announced his plan to retire.  In a partly traditional, partly ironic move, Foy transported 250 managers and their wives to Boca Raton at the company’s expense to introduce them to his successor, Donald Trautlein.  (129)  Soon to be the last great name in Bethlehem Steel, Trautlein would start the new decade with a series of reforms that made the trip to Boca Raton the proverbial Last Supper.


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