Labor Unionization

    While management was forming its unique Loop culture, labor at the Steel was beginning to unionize.  The workers had the Employee Representation Plan, which was established in 1919; Bethlehem Union Buildinghowever, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in 1939 that the ERP was a "company union" and did not fairly represent the workers.  The Congress of Industrial Organizations’ Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) then began to organize at the local plant.  SWOC later became the United Steelworkers of America.  After a four day strike in March 1941, Bethlehem Steel recognized the USW as the legitimate representative of the workers, which meant the end of Schwab’s bonus system.  (Sept 4, 1991 A5:2)  From the 1940’s on, the USW set a precedent for granting the steel workers top wages and employment conditions, which the companies gladly granted to avoid a strike during these times of high production.  World War II created a large military demand, and in the post war boom, the federal budget for highways and infrastructure was second only to defense spending.  (204)  To make up for higher wages and benefits the oligopoly formed by the few large steel firms was able raise prices on their products.  (29)  This practice, precedented in the forties and fifties, would come back to haunt the company in the seventies and eighties.