The postwar record of collective bargaining in the steel industry is both important and unique. It is important because steel is a traditional “patternsetter” for large segments of American industry. The key bargains which are negotiated in this industry establish the benchmarks for the negotiations among thousands of employers and their unions, and the relationships between “Big Steel” and the United Steelworkers of America have a profound influence on the whole industrial relations climate of America. Everyone is concerned with the outcome of steel's bargains—unions, employees, companies, the public, and particularly the government.
The record is unique by virtue of the extent of government involvement in collective bargaining matters in this industry. Since the end of the war, there have been three nation-wide steel strikes. The first, in 1946, lasted about three weeks; the second, in 1949, went on for over a month; and the third, in 1952, kept the industry at a standstill for fifty-five days. In all three cases the government was a principal party in the dispute.