Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) On the heels of a successful brokerage of a settlement between United States Steel Corporation and the steelworkers union just four days earlier, President John F. Kennedy was informed 53 years ago today, April 10, 1962, that US Steel was raising steel prices across-the-board to $6 a ton.
The President was given the less than welcome news by Roger Blough, chairman of the nation's largest steel manufacturer. The price hike represented an increase of 3.5 per cent.
The Christian-Science Monitor wrote...
"Big Steel chose to deliberately antagonize the President."
Before his intercession between labor and management, JFK had been told by the Council of Economic Advisers that an increase in steel prices would be "the greatest single threat" to economic stability.
The President had been successful in convincing steelworkers that it would be in their best interest and that of the country for them to accept arbitration on their recent contract.
In light of the union's support, President Kennedy was furious when he learned of the price hike by US Steel. JFK felt he had been "double-crossed" by the steel company. The President commented privately...
"My father always told me that all businessmen were SOBs, but I never believed it until now."
Later at a news conference, JFK was asked if he had made this comment. The President said that the news reports about the comment were inaccurate. He said he actually had been quoting his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., "who was a businessman himself," and that the President had remarked that his father had not been "wholly wrong" in his assessment.
The President went on to say that the news reports said that he had made reference to ALL businessmen, and that wasn't correct. His administration, he reminded reporters, was supportive of the "business community."
The Steel Crisis of 1962 was resolved on April 13, 1962 when United States Steel announced it was rescinding the price hike. Mainstream commentators of the time expressed support for President Kennedy's response to the crisis.
"The Steel Crisis of 1962," by Rex Bradford, September 2, 2008, www.maryferrell.org/