Detroit Free Press: Marick Masters on Walter Reuther impact on UAW
Walter Reuther is known as the man who gave birth to the UAW, helped create the middle class and fought for civil rights. He introduced the notion of profit-sharing to factory workers and he was a noted civil rights leader, even standing alongside Martin Luther King Jr. during the famous 1963 "I have a dream" speech in Washington, D.C. "He's no doubt iconic," said Marick Masters, a professor at Wayne State University who specializes in labor. "He provided progressive leadership that showed the union not only as a bargaining organization, but a leader of social change too." Right up to his death, Reuther was critical of the AFL-CIO for not organizing minorities and workers in the South, Masters said. At the time that Reuther passed away, the union was at the height of its power, Masters said. But there were the early signs of challenges. "You saw the very beginnings of foreign auto companies, they were gaining some traction and he saw that as a call for alarm," Masters said. "I think if he'd have been alive, the way the unions and the companies responded to that threat would have been different."