Segments in this Video

Decline of Industry (02:19)


Americans have relied on businesses to provide them with a high standard of living for generations. Workers in Pittsburgh once looked to corporations like U.S. Steel for 160,000 well-paying blue collar jobs. Today less than 60,000 remain.

American Dream Dashed (02:27)

Maureen Trout is among thousands of unemployed steel workers in Pittsburgh is. She has been laid off for a year in U.S. Steel's Homestead Works and has little chance of getting her job back. Her husband is about to lose his job too.

Trust in the System (02:36)

American steel corporations built a mighty industrial complex along the banks of the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh. Workers flocked to opportunity but as productivity increased, wages remained low and working conditions hazardous--until unions formed.

Standard of Living (02:36)

During the post war years working Americans came to assume that private corporations could be trusted to make the investments they depended on. Laid off steelworkers in Pittsburgh talk about their shattered dreams as they visit the food bank

Revolutionary Foreign Steel Mills (02:40)

After WWII American companies were so efficient they could pay the world's highest wages and make the lowest cost steel. Since they dominated the world market they saw little reason to invest in new technology. This led to industry decline.

Steel City News Special Report (02:40)

U.S. steel companies declined because they failed to modernize. In the 1970s business launched a media campaign saying that government spending and regulation deprived them of the profits they needed to modernize.

Economic Recovery Act (02:53)

Reagan reasserted the belief that increased profits would trickle down to the rest of society. It slashed social programs while giving corporations and wealthy investors huge tax breaks. Steel workers saw more plant closings and lay-offs.

Corporate Greed (02:37)

Reagan's Economic Recovery Tax Act saved U.S. Steel half a billion dollars. Rather than putting the money into modernization the company bought Marathon Oil and shut down plants in Pittsburgh.

Primary Objective Profit (03:01)

U.S. Steel responded to the demands of Wall Street by shifting its investments from steel to other more profitable industries. After the purchase of Marathon Oil, less than 25 percent of the company's assets remained in the steel business.

Focus on Short Term Profits (03:15)

U.S. Steel celebrated the opening of a new venture in Pittsburgh within weeks of closing its Homestead Open Hearths. By focusing on short term profits the auto industry has fallen behind in the long term development of technology and manufacturing skill.

Shrinking American Middle Class (02:21)

The economy no longer offers the high wage jobs that were the basis for the American dream. A Labor Department study revealed that traditional blue collar workers are disappearing and wages are falling. Big business is hurting communities.

U.S. Steel Protest (01:37)

Steel workers first demanded a voice in how their companies were run in 1979. When U.S. Steel announced layoffs angry workers stormed corporate headquarters

Adjusting the American Dream (02:48)

Pittsburgh steel workers attend workshops at the Tri-State Conference on Steel to explore grassroots alternatives to corporations' traditional control over investment. Workers need ownership of productive facilities on a democratic basis.

Alternatives to Corporate Control (03:07)

A coalition of community groups tried to buy the mill in Youngstown but were denied loans. Worker-owners take responsibility in adequate investment for the future of their jobs. Pension funds can also be used to generate employment

Rethinking Corporate Power of Investment (01:28)

Worker-ownership, pension funds, and public investment are not long term answers to America's economic problems. They can only succeed if they lead to more fundamental changes in economic institutions and priorities.

Pittsburgh Steel Workers' Rally (02:23)

Americans are just beginning to search for their own answers to the industrial decline. They are refusing to replace their economic destiny solely in the hands of corporations. They are seeking ways to gain real power over industrial change.

Update: One Year Later (02:40)

Pittsburgh steel workers have been left out of the recovery the U.S. appeared to be experiencing. Employment has fallen further at U.S. Steel's Homestead Mill. Workers agreed to wage cuts in the hopes the money would go to modernization.

Long Term Structural Economic Problems (01:44)

U.S. Steel's decision to lay off workers was part of an industry wide strategy. Corporate profits are reaching pre-recession levels while unemployment remains high.

Active Role in the Future (02:00)

The Tri-State Conference on Steel intensified efforts to develop an alternative to corporate control. Steel workers, union officials, local community activists, industrial engineers, and academics met to plan the future of the local economy.

Tri-State Conference on Steel (03:11)

The conference prepared a resource inventory as a first step in developing a regional strategy. They identified local industrial strengths and proceeded to determine how these regional resources could be matched with emerging economic needs.

Funding for Regional Economic Strategy (02:41)

A social balance sheet showed that unemployment, welfare payments, lost tax revenues, and lost production cost government $20 billion each year, the same amount needed to finance job creation under the Tri-State Conference on Steel's plan.

Control Over Industrial Change (01:42)

Most mainstream economists would reject the idea of socially directed investment in favor of what they argue are more efficient market mechanisms. Participants in the Tri-State Conference on Steel are excited about a new approach.

Credits: The Business of America (02:16)

Credits: The Business of America

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The Business of America

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Using Pittsburgh’s steel industry as a case study, this bold documentary explores supply-side economics and the trickle-down myth, challenging the assumption that private corporations can be trusted to make the investments upon which all Americans depend. Called “impressive” by John Kenneth Galbraith, the film contrasts two Pittsburgh steelworkers’ conventional faith in private enterprise with the actual strategies and priorities of U.S. Steel. Interviews with then U.S. Steel Chairman David Roderick and travels to Wall Street and Harvard Business School round out the program.

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: BVL49749

Copyright date: ©1984

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“An impressive, compelling tour through the new industrial wasteland. This film deserves a wide and responsive audience.”  —John Kenneth Galbraith

 “Goes to the heart and soul of the American Dream...It is an important contribution to the debate about the future of capitalism.”  —Bill Moyers

“One of the most thought-provoking documentaries of the year. Neither government, industry nor the average American can afford to ignore it.”  —The Christian Science Monitor

“A powerful documentary... makes personal many abstract economic issues while raising important questions about the nation’s industrial decline.”  —The New York Times

“A compelling and insightful chronicle of America’s deindustrialization.”  —Robert Reich, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor

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