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Letter to the Chairman, Wage Stabilization Board, Requesting an Investigation of the Labor Dispute in the Steel Industry.

December 22, 1951

Dear Mr. Feinsinger:

On the basis of the information and advice submitted to me by the Office of Defense Mobilization and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, I am of the opinion that the labor disputes between the United Steelworkers of America, CIO, and various companies in the steel industry are of a character which substantially threaten the progress of national defense. Thus, in accordance with the terms of Executive Order 10233, I am referring the disputes to the Wage Stabilization Board and asking that the Board investigate and inquire into the issues in dispute and promptly report to me with its recommendations to the parties as to fair and equitable terms of settlement.

The report of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service indicates that the union and the leading steel producers have made no progress in resolving their differences. It appears entirely unlikely, on the basis of practical experience, that the present stalemate could be broken by further bargaining or mediation and conciliation in time to avoid early and serious production losses in this vital industry. Because of the historical processes of negotiation in the steel industry, this observation applies also to companies other than leading steel producers.

The United Steelworkers of America, CIO, has contracts throughout the entire steel industry--with ore mining companies, producers of steel, and with steel fabricators. I am sending under separate cover a list of the ore mining companies and steel producing companies whose contracts with the Union expire beginning December 31, 1951. The work stoppage which is threatened by these expirations, without new agreements, would paralyze the entire steel industry. Key agreements in basic steel customarily pave the way for agreements throughout the rest of the industry. I am therefore suggesting that the Board, in its proceedings, direct its attention in the first instance to the disputes involving the following companies along with any others which in the judgment of the Board should be added.

Armco Steel Corporation

Bethlehem Steel Corporation

Inland Steel Corporation

Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation

Great Lakes Steel Corporation

Republic Steel Corporation

Sharon Steel Corporation

United States Steel Corporation

Wheeling Steel Corporation

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company

Any curtailment of operations in the steel industry will have an immediate and serious impact on the defense program. The Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization has advised me on the extent to which the mobilization program would be affected by an interruption of steel production. The entire steel industry is straining to meet pressing demands for steel and hence a stoppage would cost us vitally needed steel--steel for weapons, for new factories, for highways, schools, hospitals and for a variety of products supporting the civilian economy as well as the defense effort.

In these perilous times, the parties to disputes in the steel industry owe it to the American people to cooperate with their government in maintaining normal work and production schedules while this matter is before the Board.

Very sincerely yours,


[Honorable Nathan P. Feinfinger, Chairman, Wage Stabilization Board, Washington 25, D.C.]

Note: Executive Order 10233 is entitled "Amending Executive Order 10161 with Respect to Wage Stabilization and Settlement of Labor Disputes (Apr. 21, 1951; 3 CFR, 1949-1953 Comp., p. 743).

On March 22, 1952, the Wage Stabilization Board recommended a wage increase and a modified union shop for steel workers, but the steel companies would not accept these terms. On April 8 the President ordered Federal seizure of the steel plants in order to avert the threatened strike. This was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court on June 2.

On July 24, 1952, the union and the steel companies agreed on contract terms at a meeting at the White House, and the union issued back-to-work orders.

Harry S Truman, Letter to the Chairman, Wage Stabilization Board, Requesting an Investigation of the Labor Dispute in the Steel Industry. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231344

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