Hot, Loud, & Dangerous
Work Conditions Ignite Labor Reform
Steelworkers often labored six or even seven days a week in long and exhausting shifts. Accidents were common. Over 500 men died on the job between 1905 and 1941. Hundreds, if not thousands, were badly injured by burning metal, toxic gases, and fast-moving machinery. The men who worked these dangerous jobs were desperately poor and mostly immigrants. Few could afford to choose a safer or easier job.
In the 1900s through the 1940s, labor organizers tried to unite the workers into a single force, or labor union. After a long and sometimes violent struggle with management, the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) succeeded in unionizing Bethlehem in 1942. The union negotiated with management for improved safety measures, shorter hours, and fair wages.
"I almost went down in the fire. If it wouldn't have been for my buddy standing right in back of me, he caught me. Otherwise I would have bought it, sure thing."
- Frank Furry
Coke and Ore Dumper
In the early 1900s there were two major strikes that rocked the Steel and the South Bethlehem community. After lasting 104 days, the
In 1941, when the corporate-sponsored Employee Representation Plan couldn't effectively negotiate for the workers, members of the Steel Workers' Organizing Committee struck. Though this strike lasted only four days, it was still violent: over 50 cars were flipped, men were injured, and the governor called a state of emergency, shutting down all saloons and liquor stores. The strike delayed a vote for new ERP officers, but a US District Court ruling paved the way for collective bargaining.
[Photo captions, from left to right, read]
This 1914 photograph of worker illustrates the effectiveness of safety glasses against steel projectiles.
A steelworker known as a "puller out" spent his shifts lifting heavy, red-hot crucibles out of the furnace and onto the shop floor. He wears wet leather wrapping and wooden shoes to protect himself from the intense heat.
The strike in 1941 became so violentthat strikers flipped cars of police brought in to maintain order.
Erected by SteelStacks. (Marker Number 8.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Labor Unions. A significant historical year for this entry is 1905.
Location. 40° 36.896′ N, 75° 22.065′ W. Marker is in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in Northampton County. Marker is on the Hoover-Mason Trestle at SteelStacks. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 711 East 1st Street, Bethlehem PA 18015, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Community of Workers (a few steps from this marker); Making Iron (within shouting distance of this marker); Immigration & Industry (within shouting distance of this marker); Blast Furnace (within shouting distance of this marker); The Blower House (within shouting distance of this marker); Bethlehem Built (within shouting distance of this marker); Moving Materials (within shouting distance of this marker); Air Products (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bethlehem.
Also see . . .
1. Bethlehem Steel: Forging America. (Submitted on February 5, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Bethlehem Steel Corporation. (Submitted on February 5, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. What is SteelStacks? . (Submitted on February 5, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on March 22, 2023. It was originally submitted on February 5, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 189 times since then and 17 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on February 5, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.