The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor

By Nelson Lichtenstein | Go to book overview

13
THE TREATY OF DETROIT

Pressures growing out of employee dissatisfaction, unrest, union politics ... all were interfering with our production processes. From our standpoint, a better method of wage determination had to be found.

- Harry W. Anderson, Behind the GM Wage Program, 1950

The plain truth is that factory work is degrading.

ā€” Harvey Swados, "The Myth of the Happy Worker," 1957

On April 20, 1948, the UAW executive board meeting at the Book-Cadillac Hotel ran well into the evening. There was much to discuss: strike prospects at Chrysler, the complicated GM negotiations, Truman's chances in the fall. After it was over, several officers headed for the bar, but as usual Reuther drove straight home, only stopping briefly at the UAW headquarters to pick up a few papers. He reached his house in Northwest Detroit at 9:40 P.M. Reuther ate a dish of warmed-over stew at the breakfast bar, then went to the refrigerator to get a bowl of peaches. As he turned to reply to a casual remark by May, a blast of Double O buckshot from a twelve-gauge shotgun smashed through the kitchen window. Four pellets ripped into Reuther's right arm, and a fifth plowed through his chest. He fell to the floor, his arm a bloody confusion of bone and muscle. Most of the buckshot perforated a kitchen cupboard. Had Reuther not turned at the last moment, the full force of the blast would have blown out his chest.

Reuther remained conscious; indeed, he crawled onto the back porch to try to glimpse his assailant. "Those dirty bastards!" he cried out to the neighbors who

-271-

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The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Father and Sons 1
  • 2 - Life at the Rouge 13
  • 3 - Tooling at Gorky 25
  • 4 - Radical Cadre and New Deal Union 47
  • 5 - The West Side Local 74
  • 6 - General Motors and General Mayhem 104
  • 7 - Power under Control 132
  • 8 - 500 Planes a Day 154
  • 9 - Faustian Bargain 175
  • 10 - Patriotism and Politics in World War II 194
  • 11 - On Strike at General Motors 220
  • 12 - Uaw Americanism for Us 248
  • 13 - The Treaty of Detroit 271
  • 14 - An American Social Democracy 299
  • 15 - Reuther Abroad: "Production Is the Answer" 327
  • 16 - Democratic Dilemmas 346
  • 17 - Uneasy Partners 370
  • 18 - A Part of the Establishment 396
  • 19 - From 1968 to Black Lake 420
  • Epilogue - What Would Walter Do? 439
  • Notes 447
  • Index 551
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