Walter Reuther

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Walter Philip Reuther (September 1, 1907 – May 9, 1970) was an American labor union leader with the United Automobile Workers. He was president of the UAW from 1946 until his death in 1970.[1]

Paul Robeson rally

The CIO saw to it that a broad base of union support was built within the Black community and on three occasion organized Detroit rallies with secret Communist Party USA member Paul Robeson.

According to Quill Pettway, the last rally, in Detroit's downtown Cadillac Square, drew 60,000 people. "Regardless of race, creed or color, they came to hear Robeson, Walter Reuther, former City Council President Erma Henderson," among others.[2]

Helping MLK

According to an article published for the occasion by the UAW, Irving Bluestone, Walter Reuther’s top aide during the early 1960s, and later a UAW vice president, said, “The UAW did everything possible to support King and the civil rights movement. When King began planning the Walk to Freedom march, he wanted as many unionists as possible marching with him.”

“To help him, Reuther gave King the use of an office in Solidarity house, UAW headquarters,” Bluestone said. “King used it while he was planning the march in Detroit and the March on Washington that took place the next month.”

Detroit’s 1963 march was enormous, with 200,000 people led by King and Reuther marching down Woodward Avenue. It ended at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit with King delivering a rousing speech. One person who was at the original march said that it was tremendous to see so many Detroiters making a stand for civil rights. “We waited for hours to get in the march,” she said. “By the time we got down to Cobo Hall, we couldn’t get in, there were so many people.” [3]

March on Washington - key four

According to Democratic Left, Winter 2012, page 10, four democratic socialists organized the 1963 March on Washington – A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Jr., and UAW president Walter Reuther.[4]

Socialist Debs award

Every year since the mid 1960s the Indiana based Eugene V. Debs Foundation holds Eugene Debs Award Banquet in Terre Haute, to honor an approved social or labor activist. The 1968 honoree, was Walter Reuther.[5]

Earth Day background

According to Joe Uehlein;

The approach of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 provides us an opportunity to reflect on the “long, strange trip” shared by the environmental movement and the labor movement over four decades here on Spaceship Earth. A billion people participate in Earth Day events, making it the largest secular civic event in the world.
But when it was founded in 1970, according to Earth Day’s first national coordinator Denis Hayes, “Without the UAW, the first Earth Day would have likely flopped!” Less than a week after he first announced the idea for Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson presented his proposal to the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO. Walter Reuther, President of the UAW, enthusiastically donated $2000 to help kick the effort off – to be followed by much more. Hayes recalls: “The UAW was by far the largest contributor to the first Earth Day, and its support went beyond the merely financial. It printed and mailed all our materials at its expense — even those critical of pollution-belching cars. Its organizers turned out workers in every city where it has a presence. And, of course, Walter then endorsed the Clear Air Act that the Big Four were doing their damnedest to kill or gut.”[6]

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