“There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.”
Walter Reuther, Union Leader
He was pummeled by “thugs” hired by Ford in 1937. (“The union organizers were badly beaten and thrown down thirty-nine steps off an overpass. But a photographer from the Detroit News caught it all, and his photos helped convince courts that Ford was violating workers’ rights.” – from Defining a Nation, edited by David Halberstam).
But he worked tirelessly, and stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr. King and the other organizers at the March on Washington. In case you don’t know, or don’t remember, the full name was: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Here’s an excerpt from WALTER REUTHER: Working-Class Hero by Irving Bluestone, retired U.A.W. vice president, professor of labor studies at Wayne State University – Time Magazine, December 7, 1998:
For Reuther, unionism was not confined simply to improving life at the workplace. He viewed the role of the union as a social movement aimed at uplifting the community within the guarantees of democratic values. After his untimely death, with May, in a plane crash in 1970, waves of downsizing devastated cities and created problems for labor that still exist today. You can just imagine him wading into the fight against wanton job destruction, done for the sake of propping up corporate balance sheets.
One of his favorite slogans was “Progress with the Community–Not at the Expense of the Community.” What is unmistakably clear is that Reuther, in his lifetime, fulfilled his own philosophy of human endeavor.
A comment: have unions at times overreached? Yes, of course. When one asks that question, do you think it would be ok to also ask: have companies ever failed to adequately treat their workers with justice and dignity? Also, a yes…
This is a tough time for the American worker. Walter Reuther was a man who simply fought for the rights and dignity of the American worker. Not a bad life mission.