– News for October 1, 1959 –
October 1, 1959 was no box of chocolates. First was the ongoing Steel Strike, becoming the longest in history. President Eisenhower ordered everyone back to the bargaining table to keep trying for a resolution.
President Eisenhower asked both sides to extend the agreement and resume bargaining. McDonald and Goldberg offered to extend the contract by one year. They also proposed creating a joint committee to study changes to Section 2(b) and to the contract’s benefit structure. Steelmakers rejected the offer.
Prior to the 1959 strike, the major American steel companies were reporting high profits which led McDonald and Steelworkers general counsel Arthur J. Goldberg to request a major wage increase. Industry negotiators refused to grant a wage increase unless McDonald agreed to a substantial alteration or an elimination of Section 2(b) of the union’s national master contract.
Section 2(b) of the steelworkers’ contract limited management’s ability to change the number of workers assigned to a task or to introduce new work rules or machinery that would result in reduced hours or fewer employees. Management claimed that it helped featherbedding and reduced the competitiveness of the American steel industry.
McDonald characterized management’s proposals as an attempt to break the union. Negotiations broke off, and the contract expired on July 1, 1959.
The AFL-CIO quickly began to pressure McDonald to end the strike. Its president, George Meany, was willing to support the strike if it did not affect national security negatively. The strike was also affecting the automaking industry, which was threatening to lay off tens of thousands of Walter Reuther’s members from a steel shortage.
On September 28, 1959, Eisenhower met privately with McDonald and Goldberg and threatened to invoke the back-to-work provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act. McDonald was unwilling to budge on Section 2(b) without other concessions from the steelmakers. The steel companies, realizing that they could wait until Eisenhower forced union members back to work, refused to make any such concessions.
And then, literally overnight, The Longshoremen went on strike, idling some 100,000 dock workers and spreading up and down the East Coast of the U.S.
The South was still digging out from the aftermath of Hurricane Gracie and a Gas tank explosion sent some 2 1/2 million gallons of gasoline in a wall of flame across what would have been a busy highway, had it not been early in the morning when only 9 minor injuries resulted.
That, and a lot more via this edition of the legendary Lowell Thomas And The News for October 1, 1959.
And you think today is bad . . . .
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