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Steel Industry's Iron Men Are Gone

July 27, 1986

As LTV Corp., our third-largest steelmaker, ducks into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in its agony, we recall with envy the days of the iron men, the Carnegies, Jones, Schwabs, Corrigans and Laughlins.

They made steel, they made money, they made history and they made America.

Their heirs, the steelmakers of the '30s such as Girdler, Gillies, Wysor, Weir and even Henry Ford, were not afraid to battle the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt and the world markets all at once.

When these builders of the giant mills and this great industry gave way to the gray flannel products of Establishment business schools, steelmaking became finance, banking, flow-charts, do-goodism, worker development, pension plans and the steelworkers' union.

The result of years of cushy comfort in both mill and office is the present generation of white-collar workers who wouldn't recognize a piece of steel; their fellow laborers in the laboratories are researching oil products, electronics, diseases and the space age. Out in the mill sheds, today's puddlers push buttons at $40,000 per year as the companies lose their markets.

When you wonder whence came the bankruptcies, ask the guys who negotiated the industrywide contract (in which) no one in plant or office may receive less than the steelworkers' basic wage.

Thus we have file clerks, pencil sharpeners, and latrine polishers guaranteed $25,000 and more annually. Rot, rust and steel-eating termites are destroying the most powerful creations of America, our steel mills.

JOHN D. ANDREWS

Palos Verdes

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