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; however,
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.