Out of a rapidly growing economic pie, the UAW carved a fair slice for workers in postwar years, negotiating health insurance, pensions, paid vacation, lay-off protections, cost of living adjustments, productivity bonuses and wage increases. UAW contract advances in wages and benefits built a roadway to middle-class life for many Americans, far beyond their own membership.
In an arched sanctuary, democracy finds refuge in the very heart of Labor Matters. Sheltered from physical and material forces, workers/citizens stand before the ballot box to exercise self-determination. Labor fought for legislation for worker safety and health, equal pay, pension protection and civil rights, extending union values to all workers. In the forefront for human rights, from Selma to Sodilarnozc to South Africa, the UAW stands up for democracy at home and abroad.
Families and neighbors have a place in this picture. Just out of the glare of the welders'' torches, a worker proudly explains his work to the next generation. Never far from plant gates are tables for community work, collecting and dispensing assistance of all kinds, coordinating volunteers, making a better society.
A Voice From History
The labor movement is about changing society. What good is a dollar an hour more if your neighborhood is burning down? What good is another week''s vacation if the lake you used to go to, where you got a cottage, is polluted and you can''t swim in it and the kids can''t play in it? And what good is another $100 pension if the world goes up in atomic smoke in a war?
- Walter Reuther,
UAW President 1946-1970
Perhaps few people can so well understand the problems of auto workers and others in labor as Negroes themselves because we built a cotton economy for 300 years as slaves on which the nation grew powerful, and we still lack the most elementary rights of citizens and workers. We too realize that when human forces are subordinated to blind economic forces, human beings can become human scrap.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the UAW Convention, 1961
Did You Know?
July 6, 1949, Ford announced plans to build a new stamping plant on 180 acres in Woodlawn. Opened in October 1950, the plant hired hundreds of workers every week through the winter and spring. UAW Local 897 won recognition on February 21, 1951.
The last automotive assembly venture started in Buffalo was in 1948 when Playboy Motor Car Corporation built 97 two-door convertibles before it went bankrupt from insufficient capital.