MotorCities National Heritage Area
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SWD AHG Msthd 5.7.20

1 LABOR ROOTS TITLE Lab Roots

For those who don’t have much familiarity with labor history, David Elsila’s A Labor Perspective post that follows introduces organized labor’s roots in Southwest Detroit, while the Dreaming of a Better Future essay offers a sense of the spirit that informs the union movement.

 

WRL.12 UAW Ford BBoardUAW Ford Organizing Campaign Billboard (Late 19030s)

 

 “If I worked in a factory, the first thing I would do would be to JOIN A UNION.” 

-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from a CIO organizing poster (circa 1930)

 

“The choices highlighted in the Ford organizing campaign billboard are still with us today. The benefits of the Union Shop were at the heart of the unsuccessful 2012 ballot proposal to incorporate the rights to collective bargaining into the Michigan Constitution. Its opponents, who later enacted “Right to Work” laws, echoed the arguments made almost a century ago by Open Shop advocates like auto pioneer Henry Leland. The terms of the social contract between managers and workers have been contested for almost a century and a half with Southwest Detroit at center stage on many occasions. 

It's worth recalling that in 1883 the first annual report of the Michigan Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics decried the use of child labor in Southwest Detroit brickyards. Mothers toiled from sunrise to sunset for meager wages that allowed them to live only in “filthy, dilapidated, little hovels” opening onto muddy alleyways. In the face of desperate circumstances such as these, who was able give voice to those who were disenfranchised? What forms of organization best served the interests of workers and the unemployed? How were the political and community alliances forged to advance the banner of social justice?

For many, the answer was the union”

 

2 LABOR PERSPECTIVE TITLE Lab RootsThis link takes the reader to the complete essay that has been used to introduce this page

 

3 DREAMING OF A BETTER FUTURE TITLE Lab Roots An excerpt from the Michigan Labor History Society’s Labor’s Legacy Landmark Dedication Program Booklet

 

The following posts provide detailed discussions of noteworthy events and key issues of interest to labor activists. The Guide’s team is currently working on posts that will highlight the 1941 UAW campaign to win a contract at Ford. That treatment will also chronicle the pivotal contributions of African American workers to the modern Civil Rights movement. 

 

Click to view:

4 FIGTNG 4 8 HR DAY TITLE Lab RootsA Michigan Labor History Society newsletter feature highlighting the 1886 campaign to win the Eight Hour Day at American Car Foundry:

 

5 H LELAND TITLE Lab RootsA discussion of employer resistance to unions at the turn of the 20th century

 

6 WOODMERE TITLE Lab RootsAn exploration of the hardships of the Great Depression of the 1930s

 

 

7 HUNGER MARCH TITLE Lab RootsThe excerpt from the Guide’s Woodmere Cemetery post traces the hardship of the Great Depression of the 1930s and commemorates the Ford Hunger March

 

8 ROAW Lab Roots 6.19.20This post highlights the explosive growth of the UAW’s early years 1936 – 1938

 

9 KELSEY HAYES TITLE Lab RootsA Michigan Labor History Society newsletter tribute to the Kelsey Hayes sit down strike that preceded the campaign to win the 1937 General Motors contract

 

10 TERNSTEDT WOMEN TITLE Labor RootsThis Michigan Labor History Society newsletter article focuses on the 1937 organizing efforts of women workers at Ternstedt

 

12 BATTLE OF THE OVERPASS TITLEThis Michigan Labor History Society newsletter article recounts the attack by Ford security men on UAW leafleteers

 

11 174 HOLDS THE FORT TITLE Lab RootsAn account of the 1938 Federal Screw Works strike that protected labor’s gains during the 1938 recession

 

 

13 AUTOWRKRS INDSTRY TITLE Lab RootsThe Guide team’s overview of the advances and challenges autoworkers confronted in the years following World War II to the present

 

14 RTW COMES TO MI TITLE Lab RootsA summary of the 2012 legislative effort that established Michigan as a “Right to Work” state 

 

15 GHOST HUNTING LOCAL 174 TITLE A personal reflection on the meaning of the union, as told by one who was charged with reviewing its records

 

Click here to view:

 

Biographies of five UAW Local 174 activists who were key to building the local and all of whom held prominent union offices or had distinguished public service careers. 

 

1 WALTER REUTHER TITLE

 

2 VICTOR REUTHER TITLE

 

3 GEORGE EDWARDS TITLE

 

4 STANLEY NOWAK TITLE

PHOTO CREDITS 

Detroit Historical Society
Henry Leland

 

General Motors Media Archives 
Cadillac Clark Street Tire Mounting, GM Ternstedt Women

 

Michigan Labor History Society 
Labor’s Legacy Landmark

 

MotorCities National Heritage Area / Joseph Hines
David Buick Grave Marker (Woodmere Cemetery)

 

Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University
UAW picket line protest photos, Local UAW 174 Murals, UAW Local 174 leaders, Battle of the Overpass

 

Jim West Photography
All Lansing rally images

 

SWD AHG FTR June20