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

By Nelson Lichtenstein | Go to book overview

17
UNEASY PARTNERS

We are getting sick and tired of the civil rights runaround practiced by the present leadership of both political parties.

— Walter Reuther, 1959

He could make excellent speeches on brotherhood, and what we need to do, and what democracy requires and so forth. But all in the context of what was best for him politically.

— George Crockett, 1970

On August 28, 1963, Walter Reuther was by far the most prominent white person to speak at the March on Washington. He deserved to be there because for nearly a generation the UAW had put more money and muscle behind the civil rights revolution than had any other trade union. It was a wonderful day: afterwards he beamed with pleasure when Irving Bluestone told him that he had overheard a pair of African-American marchers call Reuther the "white Martin Luther King." 1

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s Walter Reuther had proven a highly visible and articulate spokesman for American liberalism's civil rights agenda. "The United States cannot lead the world unless we are ready to fight the master race theory in Mississippi as we fought the master race theory in Germany," Reuther told a UAW civil rights conference just after the murder of Emmett Till in 1955. UAW contributions to the NAACP proved controversial among southern autoworkers, but when their grumbles reached Detroit, Reuther was defiant: "I would rather have 100,000 less members in our union than have a million more

-370-

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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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