The UAW, for the true believers in its midst, has the character of a full-scale religion.
— Murray Kempton, April 1951
What puzzles Europeans most about the American trade union movement is that it has not tried to create its own political party to advance labor's own interest.... How do you explain that?
— Henry Brandon of the Sunday Times, interviewing Walter Reuther,
Shortly after he was elected president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations late in 1952, Walter Reuther received a telegram from UAW Local 6 in Chicago. It read: "You have been in office thirty minutes. The wage freeze is still on, the war in Korea has not been concluded. Get on the ball." 1
In politics, as in collective bargaining, Americans had great expectations of Walter Reuther. At midcentury his adversaries often denounced him as an ambitious politician. The accusation was entirely accurate, but it did not sting. Reuther saw the UAW as an independent and powerful force in American society, and he made no apology for his efforts to magnify, unify, and deploy that power in the most efficacious fashion. He wanted influence in Washington, Lansing, and a score of city halls. Much speculation had him on the road to the White House; Reuther never