Gathering at Steel Museum to remember Black Monday
By Jamison Cocklin
Thirty-five years ago today, on Sept. 19, 1977, Jennings R. Lambeth, president of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., abruptly announced the company would shutter its Campbell Works, putting 5,000 employees out of work.
For the Mahoning Valley and Youngstown, that day, known as Black Monday, marked the official beginning of a wave of steel-mill closures with devastating consequences for the area’s economy.
At 10 a.m. today, some of those steel workers and public officials who lived through the crisis will gather across the street from the former United Steelworkers of America Local 1418 Union Hall to discuss that fateful day and share their memories. The event, which will take place at the Campbell Administration Building at 351 Tenney Ave., is free and open to the public.
For many, Black Monday was a poignant moment. Housewives, lawyers, teachers and politicians can remember exactly where they were when they first heard the news, whether by radio, newspaper or word-of-mouth.
Youngstown Sheet & Tube’s main point of operations was its Campbell Works, located in Campbell and Struthers. Its secondary operations occurred at the Brier Hill Works in Youngstown. That also was phased out of operation throughout 1979.
Lambeth moved company headquarters to Chicago and it was eventually bought by Jones and Laughlin Steel, only to be acquired by a major U.S. conglomerate Ling-Temco-Vought, which also closed in 2000.
In the weeks and months that followed retrenchment at the Campbell Works, a local initiative was undertaken aimed at employ- ees purchasing the plant, but ultimately it failed.
Throughout the following decade, as more mills were shuttered and the support industries and supply chains that served them went the same way, some 40,000 jobs were lost in the Mahoning Valley, which at one point boasted 20 miles of bustling steel mills.
The Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor is also hosting an exhibit and symposium this week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Little Steel Strike and Black Monday.
The exhibit, “Labor and New Deal Art” will open at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Attorney and activist Staughton Lynd, who lived through Black Monday, will give a keynote address at 6 p.m. on the topics titled “The Little Steel Strike and the Steel Mill Shutdowns.”
The Little Steel Strike of 1937 saw thousands of steelworkers go on strike against smaller steel manufacturing companies such as Republic Steel Co. and Youngstown Sheet & Tube.
Factory workers went on strike over poor working conditions and low wages.
The strike helped forge better conditions for workers, though concessions didn’t occur until around 1941. The federal government legalized labor unions in 1935, but many companies refused to abide by the law.
The Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, more commonly known as the Steel Museum, is located at 151 W. Wood St., in downtown Youngstown.