Duluth Works - The Hammer Falls

The Hammer Falls

In June 1970, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) asked U.S. Steel to provide documentation on its pollution output at its Duluth facilities and a two year window to implement a follow-up plan. In the fall of 1971, the United Steelworkers of America threatened to strike as well. The years of problems, bad market location, old facilities, and now pollution and foreign competition had finally come to a head at U.S. Steel headquarters. Rather than deal with the issue of spending millions of dollars to improve the Duluth Works, U.S. Steel announced in September 1971 that it would shut down the "hot side" of operations in Duluth. This included the blast and open hearth furnaces and the pig iron shop. 1,600 steelworkers were affected. In January 1972, U.S. Steel chairman of the board, Edwin H. Gott, announced that the hot side of the Duluth Works would never again reopen, but that operations would still continue at its steel finishing, coke and cement facilities. But that hope was only short-lived. In October 1973, U.S. Steel announced it was closing the "cold side", or finishing mills, at the Duluth Works leaving another 800 employees out of work. (Several smaller companies would make the former "cold side" facilities their home following the closures, such as Hallett Wire, Priola and Johnson, the Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Railway, and Zalk Josephs, making steel related products until 1987, when Hallett Wire - the last remaining manufacturing tenant left the Duluth Works Industrial Park. Only the Realty and Development Division of U.S. Steel and some operations of the DM&IR railroad were left.) Then in 1976, the Universal Atlas Cement Company, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel at the Duluth Works operating since 1916, announced it too would close, despite assurances that the facility wouldn't close. Another 200 employees would lose their jobs. Finally, in 1979, U.S. Steel announced it was closing the last of its operating assets in Morgan Park, its coke plant of the Duluth Works. By 1981, the last vestige of the United States Steel Corporation's steel making operations in Duluth, once the city's largest employer, had come to an end.

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