How Health Care Became the Big Industry in Steel City

How Health Care Became the Big Industry in Steel City

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The United States has steadily been deindustrializing since the 1970s. Industry makes more sense in countries with cheaper labor, and now automation is finishing the job of kicking blue-collar workers to the curb. Still, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania identifies itself with steel production, though the city’s workers have shifted to the health care industry, and the caregivers employed there, primarily women, many of them POC, are far from the dream of high, union-protected wages and a prosperous life on a single income. Jennifer Szalai describes the transition in this New York Times report.


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was known for its steel production and good union jobs; now its major industry is health care.

Some fondly recall Pittsburgh’s postwar heyday, when one working-class man could make enough money to support his entire family by working in a steel plant. The jobs could be hard on the body, but at least the union pushed for wages that kept up with or even surpassed inflation. 

The abundance wasn’t for everyone, however, and it didn’t last long. Black workers were often left out of union protections, and the government pressured the industry to stop rising wages so costs would stay low. Eventually, steel production became cheaper ...

About the Author

Jennifer Szalai is a nonfiction critic for The New York Times.

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