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Steel industry in Youngstown Ohio

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    How the rise and decline of steel industry has shaped the city of Youngstown, Ohio


    This paper focuses on the industrialization and de-industrialization of the city of Youngtown, Ohio. It studies the causes and the effects of de-industrialization and looks at how the community of Youngstown tried to prevent the downfall of the steel industries despite the outcome.

    The city of Youngstown, Ohio was one of the leading steel manufacturing cities in the United States of America before it faced the devastating effects of de-industrialization in the 1970s.

    The steel industry was the backbone of its economy and then a wave of industrial shutdowns hit the city. These shutdowns were due to a rise in costs of labor, tax, environmental demands, etc. Even as the community and unions organized efforts to save the industries, steel companies deemed it fit to relocate their industries to other countries and what followed was an upsurge of unemployment, which led to crimes and social problems.

    When the mill ‘ the jenny’ was shut down, five thousand people lost their jobs  and despite their efforts to save the mills and what followed was economic crisis, crime and mob scandals and these problems persisted twenty five years after the crisis. The Jenny still stands as a symbol of the glorious days when the city was a leading manufacturer of steel. The Jenny is also a symbol of identity of Youngstown (Linkon and Russo, 2005). In their book, Linkon Lee Sherry and Russo John explore the cultural and historical relationship between community, memory, work and conflict.  The study is based on written works on the subject, songs, corporate archives, census data, poems and interviews with the people who have worked and lived in Youngstown.

    Memory is important in forming the collective identity of a place. While many people would want to get over the past and move on with the future they should not forget the great events that made the town important, some of these events include the fight for economic and social justice, job security and union organization it is this struggle that improved the lives of the steel Workers.

    In order to effectively deal with the future we must understand and preserve our past and this is achieved through remembering the past. Racism and class conflict has greatly affected the struggle between the labor unions and the political elites; it has led to occupational segregations and denial of equal employment opportunities. A majority of black workers were given arduous and dangerous jobs and were denied promotions while their white counterparts had better jobs.

    The collapse of the industries in Youngstown is similar in many ways to the film ‘Enron: The smartest person in t the room’ (Mclean and Elkind, 2005). The smartest guy in the room is a representation of the largest business scandals in the history of America; the film explores the collapse of Enron Corporation, the involvement of Enron traders in the California electricity crisis and the induction of several of the company’s top executives which followed. The theme that runs throughout the film is corporate culture. Enron placed a lot of pressure on its workers to perform thus leading to competition in the workplace and forcing the workers to disregard the law in many of the company’s business transactions.

    ‘Brassed off’ is a British comedy by Mark Herman (1996) about the problems faced by colliery brass band after the closure of their pit. These problems are similar to those faced by the people of Youngstown. The film highlights how the problems caused by the industries shape a society. High levels of suicide resulted after the closure of the pits and the people struggle to restore hope back into their lives. The miners tried to put up resistance against the Coal boards harsh policies; this led to destruction of the trade union power in the British coal mining industry, and the ten years of hopelessness that followed the strike.

     It is evident that the rise and fall of steel industries had adverse effects on the economy of Youngstown and these problems are still being experienced in their society to date.


     Herman Mark (1996) Brassed off. Comedy.

    Linkon Lee Sherry and Russo John (2003). Steel town USA. Kansas; University Press of Kansas place, publisher

    Mclean Bethany and Elkind Peter (2005) Enron: the smartest guys in the room. Comedy.

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    Steel industry in Youngstown Ohio. (2016, Sep 29). Retrieved from

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