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While many amongst us may grow weary in this time of economic crisis, political stagnation, and a resurgent radical right-wing movement bent on turning back the 20th century, we would all do well to look at other times of social crisis in American history which led to huge advances for social, racial, and economic justice.

It has been my honor, privilege, and joy to review some of that history this week in speeches and workshops for the leaders of the National Organization of Legal Service Workers affiliated with the United Automobile Workers in Las Vegas.

In my workshops on Mobilization and Coalition building, I’ve had the privilege of reminding these brilliant leaders of the UAW of some of the UAW’s rich history and vigorous struggle for social justice for all Americans.

The UAW not only marched with Dr. King and my brother Rev. James Orange in the civil rights movement of the 1950′s and 1960′s, but funded much of it as well. Walter Reuther the founder and president of the UAW was routinely and often red baited and accused of being a socialist, because this was the period of McCarthyism and right-wing control of the American government.

Without the UAW, the 1963 March on Washington led by A. Philip Randolph would likely not have happened, and Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech may never have been heard.

Though most of us don’t know this, the organizer of that march was A. Philip Randolph’s assistant Bayard Rustin, a gay African American.

And, surely without Walter Reuther and the UAW, President Johnson would not have been able to pass Medicare, Medicaid, and the War on Poverty.

Our American history is full of folks like you and me who in times of despair refused to weaken or give in or give up.

That is why the tattoo on my right shoulder is a quote from Bruce Springsteen, “No Retreat No Surrender.”

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Comment Preferences

  •  Reuther was a great man, but... (0+ / 0-)

    he did err in uniting with the odious George Meany.  More importantly, he made a major error in deciding to rely on the Democratic Party to achieve change rather than direct action.

    It seems he saw those errors fairly quickly, pulling the UAW out of the AFL-CIO and breaking with LBJ on Vietnam, but that plane crash cut short what might have been even greater things.

  •  And Reuther wasn't "accused" of being a socialist. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    demjim

    He was a proud member of the Socialist Party in the 30s and skeptical about Roosevelt, even while the CP members in the UAW were all agog over the "Popular Front."

    Reuther and his brother spent months working in a Soviet factory in Gorki as well, and often spoke positively about the experience.

    Later, Reuther did his own "red-baiting" when he wanted to purge those CP members who were giving him political trouble in the union.

    It's a very complicated history.

  •  UAW allowed new hire pay to be cut 50% (0+ / 0-)

    Why?

    Today, the CEO of Ford makes 570x what a New Hire makes at the same company.  Far more than the differential at Toyota.

    The UAW could have insisted that C-level pay be pegged to no more than 100x new hire pay.

    But it chose not to.

    In many ways, the UAW and other private sector unions are morphing into their Mexican counterparts.

    Every year, you hear the same thing from them.  "We're giving you all that we can.  We're securing the best benefit ans wage package we can.  But we've got to make sure "El Patron" is viable".

    Today, that's what you hear from private sector unions in the US.

    Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

    by PatriciaVa on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 09:18:19 AM PDT

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