Resource: Have Angels Done More? The Steel Industry Consent Decree

By: Bernard E. (Casey) Ichniowski

January 1, 1983

This study analyzes the consent decree of 1974 that reformed plant seniority systems in basic steel to resolve problems of equal employment opportunity. The author argues that the major factors leading to the negotiation of this industry-wide decree were the large number of plant-level suits being filed against the parties and the influence of the Bethlehem Steel decision of June 1971. The decree provided in part for the replacement of departmental seniority by plantwide seniority in most promotion, transfer, layoff, and recall decisions; the retention of pay rates after transfer to a position that provides a lower pay rate than the previous position; the establishment of goals for minority representation in skilled jobs; and a back-pay settlement. The author's analysis of these provisions shows that minority representation in skilled jobs increased in the four-year period after the decree more rapidly than pre-1974 employment trends would have predicted; but in 1978, considerable underutilization of blacks in those jobs still existed.