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May 26, 1937 - 80th Anniversary
Posted 05.26.2017

file 20170215200334 Battle of the Overpass 1937(Photo credit: Walter Reuther Library, Detroit)

WHAT: On May 26, 1937, union supporters which included a young Walter Reuther visited the Ford River Rouge Complex to pass out literature to workers on a shift change.

Shortly after James "Scotty" Kilpatrick started snapping photos of the union supporters on the Miller Road bridge to Gate 4, Ford Motor Co. employees, including the infamous Harry Bennett, approached the group and a brawl ensued.

It is said the melee was over in mere minutes, but the damage was done as photo evidence from Kilpatrick's camera showed bloody and beaten unionists.

The fallout from the incident, which included Ford Motor Co. being brought up for possible violations of the federal Wagner Act, eventually influenced Henry Ford to treat with the unions. Ford was the last company to enter into union contracts.

WHO: Leaders of the burgeoning UAW including Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen.

Related Content: How the Ford Motor Co. won a battle and lost ground


file 20170214190918 Building the Enginefile 20170213194403 Building the EngineIn 2017, a unique confluence of organized labor milestones will be recognized through a public awareness effort called, “Building the Engine: Auto and Labor, 1932-1937.”

With informative programs, publications and events, regional partners including the MotorCities National Heritage Area and the Michigan Labor History Society will present the story of how these events laid the foundation for organized labor in the auto industry and beyond.

To navigate labor anniversaries being commemorated as part of this effort, click on the links below.

80th anniversary, 1936 Kelsey Hayes Sit-Down Strike – Dec. 14, 2016

80th anniversary, 1936-37 Flint Sit-Down Strike and first UAW-GM contract – Dec. 30, 2016-Feb. 11, 2017

85th anniversary, 1932 Ford Hunger March – March 7, 2017

80th anniversary, 1937 Battle of the Overpass – May 26, 2017

80th anniversary, 1937 Lansing Labor Holiday – June 7, 2017

Special publications, events, educational programming and more will be presented under the identity of “Building the Engine,” including a series of blog posts featured on the MotorCities website. Other information about the program will be listed on as well as the Michigan Labor History Society website at