Published April 1983 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd We Need a Heavy Industry At a recent meeting in Pittsburgh, some 120 unemployed steelworkers talked about the computer training program in which they were participating. Outside the meeting, an estimated 4,000 other unemployed steelworkers demonstrated, protesting the economic conditions that had robbed them of their jobs. The situation in Pittsburgh shows the choices facing some of our jobless industrial workers today; should they seek retraining in other, possibly more promising fields? Or should they wait for better economic conditions and a revival of our basic industries? The answer could be a little bit of both. Retraining some of our workers and channeling our young people into fields where future job possibilities will be plentiful, computers, electronics, and other technical disciplines, is an idea I support. But the Pittsburgh example clearly demonstrates that we cannot retrain every worker who is currently unemployed, nor would it be wise to do so. We need a heavy industry in this country, and we need the workers who have made these industries strong. A prospering heavy industry, steel, mining, glass, automobile, and others, has traditionally been the foundation of our strength as a nation, both militarily and economically. But now, some of those industries are suffering. The recession has eaten into our industrial base, throwing thousands of workers into the unemployment lines and sending production levels to all-time lows. West Virginia has suffered more than its share from the slump of heavy industry. Our unemployment rate continues to be the highest in the nation, an intolerable and tragic 21 percent. I am firmly committed to pursuing a course that will help our basic industries and our workers through this difficult time. That is why I have introduced several pieces of legislation in the U.S. Senate geared toward reviving and strengthening our basic industries, including: -- a measure to form a National Investment Corporation, which has as its goal the rejuvenation of our basic industries by providing long-term, low-interest loans; -- legislation to improve and deepen the nation's ports so we can sell more of our coal and other products overseas; -- fair trade legislation to make certain that our products are treated equitably in foreign markets and to end the unfair foreign trade practices that are hurting our industries here at home; -- and legislation to speed up the federal study on the causes and effects of acid precipitation before any new regulations to control it, which could cost jobs and raise utility bills, are considered. In the months and years ahead, we should devote our efforts to a plan to revive our basic industries and the jobs that those industries supply.