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Big Steel Signals that it Might Allow Workers to Unionize

On January 9, 1937, U.S. Steel’s chairman and director, Myron Taylor, initiated a brief conversation with John L. Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers of America, after a chance encounter in the dining room of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. Further conversations followed, initially unknown to other company and union officials. In these meetings, Taylor surrendered to notions he had begun to embrace months earlier: that unions were an unavoidable reality in the future of steel production and that continued resistance would only delay the inevitable while exposing the company to considerable political and economic risks. Unlike Tom Girdler and the other leaders of the Little Steel Companies, Taylor was an industry outsider, a corporate lawyer and financier; he fancied himself an “industrial statesman” who could deal with a union without sacrificing the company’s critical interests.

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