U.S. Steel Corporation president Benjamin Fairless, Eugene G. Grace, and Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company president Frank Purnell arriving at labor summit in Washington D.C., November 13, 1941.
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Benjamin Fairless, president of the U.S. Steel Corporation; Eugene G. Grace of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation; and Frank Purnell of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, arriving at conference in Washington D.C., November 13, 1941.

Credit: Imge donated by Corbis-Bettmann

In November, 1941, the heads of three steel companies owning "captive" coal mines met at the White House with President Roosevelt and John L. Lewis, leader of the CIO, to address Lewis' demands for a union representation in their mines. Despite Purnell's and Fairless" willingness to sign with Lewis, the conference yielded little. Grace, who disliked Lewis intensely, was unwilling to budge from Bethlehem's notorious opposition to unions. American engagement in World War II, which would begin just a few weeks later after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, would postpone union representation in steel company-owned coal mines until the late 1940s.

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