|Ecumenical Coalition of the Mahoning Valley Records -- Biographical Background|
September 19, 1977, became known as "Black Monday" in Mahoning Valley history.1 The Campbell Works of Youngstown Sheet and Tube closed that day. Five thousand workers lost their jobs, and five thousand more jobs would be eliminated within three years.
Within a week of the closing of Campbell Works, religious leaders and community members met to discuss the economic and social future of the Mahoning Valley. Religious leaders from Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faiths believed extensive job loss and a down-turned economy would cause many negative results including: marital problems, depression, and alcoholism. To discuss combating potential problems, a Steel Crisis Conference, open to religious leaders only, was held on October 28, 1977. The Ecumenical Coalition of the Mahoning Valley formed as a result of the conference.
The main initiative developed by the coalition was the possibility of opening a community/worker-owned operation at the Campbell Works. After this was declared possible by a feasibility study, the coalition promoted the grassroots Save Our Valley campaign in February 1978. A campaign staff was hired to promote and manage fundraising. The coalition encouraged local citizens and organizations to put money into a personal savings account. The money would be set aside for future stock in the community-owned company, when/if the company opened. By June 1978, the campaign went national and an Ecumenical Coalition office opened in New York. At that time, the amount contributed reached over $2 million.
From the beginning, the religious leaders contacted federal and state government officials. To reopen the steel mill, the coalition needed hundreds of millions of dollars. They hoped most of the funding would come from government grants. The National Center for Economic Alternatives (NCEA) assisted in developing a community/worker corporation model.
However, the coalition's community/worker-owned company never materialized. During March 1979, the plan for reopening Campbell Works was rejected. The Economic Development Administration, citing multiple flaws in the proposal, could not provide the millions of dollars needed. On April 5, 1979, the Ecumenical Coalition decided to close the campaign office and not pursue the Campbell Works project any further.