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

By Nelson Lichtenstein | Go to book overview

9
FAUSTIAN BARGAIN

In the North American situation it was obvious that the Communist Party was making political capital of workers' legitimate demands for wage adjustments in order to sabotage defense production and to discredit the administration in Washington.

—Walter Reuther, June 1941

By the middle of 1941 the Great Depression was over. America's steel mills were running at full capacity, as were the shipyards, locomotive shops, machine tool firms, and other capital equipment companies that had staggered through the great slump. The auto companies were having their best year since 1929, boosting the payrolls of Detroit's many satellite industries: rubber, glass, electrical equipment, sheet steel, and ball bearings. Unemployment declined by almost a percentage point each month; soon millions of Americans would begin a great migration from the low-paid world of domestic service, cotton mill drudgery, and hardscrabble farming to the great centers of war production. Force-fed by an endless stream of government dollars, the sprawling industrial infrastructure that would characterize the postwar era was under construction. Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Buffalo, Long Beach, Seattle, and Detroit attracted hundreds of thousands of new factory workers, but the real industrial explosion came in once sleepy towns like Ypsilanti (Michigan), Tacoma (Washington), Wichita (Kansas), Marietta (Georgia), Richmond (California), and Melrose Park (Illinois), where the government sited huge production facilities. Factories were gigantic, not only because of the great requirements of the war but because of the Fordist technology of the era: men, women, and machines were massed together in amazing density.

-175-

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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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