John Hoerr was a freelance writer and author with over thirty years of experience as a journalist for UPI, The Daily Tribune, and public television. His published work included And the Wolf Finally Came: The Decline of the American Steel Industry and We Can’t Eat Prestige: The Women Who Organized Harvard.
John Hoerr tells the story of three men—his uncle, Congressman Harry Davenport, union leader Tom Quinn, and Father Charles Owen Rice—whose lives became intertwined during the anti-Communist witch hunts of the McCarthy Era. The story helps illuminate one of the more repressive periods in American history, when thousands of Americans guilty only of enlisting in leftist causes were caught up in dragnets cast by overzealous Communist hunters on behalf of the House Un-American Activities Committee and other bodies. Much has been written about well-known cultural figures (the Hollywood Ten), and prominent writers (Arthur Miller and Lillian Hellman) who contended with HUAC. Hoerr tells of mostly ordinary Americans who were largely unknown at the time, but whose stories are nonetheless remarkable.
Writing from personal experience with the title characters, as well as archival research, Hoerr recreates the events of the 1949 HUAC hearings, where rigged testimony by a few workers cast suspicion on their union brothers. The results would echo through the years, causing people to lose jobs, marriages, and self-respect. Hoerr traces the paths followed by Harry, Tom, and Father Rice and relates their individual experiences to the great conflict between anti-Communist and Communist forces in the American labor movement, leading to the eventual demise of the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations).
• Choice 1988 Outstanding Academic Book
• Named one of the Best Business Books of 1988 by USA Today
A veteran reporter of American labor analyzes the spectacular and tragic collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s. John Hoerr’s account of these events stretches from the industrywide barganing failures of 1982 to the crippling work stoppage at USX (U.S. Steel) in 1986-87. He interviewed scores of steelworkers, company managers at all levels, and union officials, and was present at many of the crucial events he describes. Using historical flashbacks to the origins of the steel industry, particularly in the Monongahela Valley of southwestern Pennsylvania, he shows how an obsolete and adversarial relationship between management and labor made it impossible for the industry to adapt to shattering changes in the global economy.