Ref 1 Wiki
Ref 2 Speeches.
If passion were dynamite, Walter Ruether would be able to blow up the twin towers himself.
He is a fascinating individual, a union "warrior" a socialist firebrand and a man with a very strong sense of mission. He was one of the 'white brothers' that MLK jr referred to in his dream speech in 1965 where he said:
"this marvellous new militancy which has engulfed the negro community, must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, because some of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied to our destiny"
Ruether was one of them. But like most people of their time, Reuther could not see the destination of that destiny which turned out to be far different from his idealistic and utopian vision of where his Union activities would lead.
He speaks in 1936 about the great freedom and democracy of a factory in the Soviet Union which Henry Ford helped establish. (but back in America he fought Ford with unending fury).
In his address to the United Auto Workers in 1966 he recounts the journey of the Union.
-1936 sit down strikes at GM over the one issue of.. "having a voice at the negotiation table"...i.e..the right to be heard on issue of wages and conditions.
He then reminds the assembled workers about every benefit they have now, and how it came about by the power of force alone.. strikes...fights etc.
His ambition was to gain significant pay rises withOUT the company passing those on in the form of price rises to the public. Such an intention needs to be analyzed for the true impact. It means the company would make less money because of higher overheads/labor costs. Less profit means those tho financed the company, shareholders, will have money taken from them for no other reason than that Walter Reuther and his co conspirators (that's what they were) wanted it. So in short Reuther, well intentioned as he was, became a thief. The shareholders money did not belong to the workers, so why should they take it without providing some compensation?
Reuther argues that while 600,000 workers previously produced something like 3 million vehicles at a certain period. Now with increased manufacturing efficiency, 620,000 workers can produce 5 million vehicles! Therefore they should be paid more. He has a reasonable point if looked at on the surface alone. What he fails to realize is that the increased efficiency was at the cost of arms and legs of workers.. I mean.. if they can produce many more cars, nearly double with only a small increase in the workforce.... it suggests that the direction of manufacturing is to reduce the number of workers, and increase the manufacturing efficiency with mechanization and automation.
In other words, the direction of manufacturing, is to have maximum output with minimum input. That process will be speedily hastened along by an increasingly costly work force, which is what Reuther was creating. His plans and ambitions for a workforce with dignity and well being had the effect of ramping up efforts to automate, shed jobs, and increase profits by doing do. Nothing wrong with trying to maximize profit.. that's the way of life. Why would you dig out a dam with a shovel if you can get a bull dozer to do it with?
But in all this to and fro and industrial wrestling, the one person who's job was not shed, was Reuthers. Nor was his use of private Jets to travel to conferences etc. I find it very attractive and enticing to draw the conclusion that the only job Reuther was really interested in saving and enhancing was his own!
But the true nature of Reuthers delusion (or malfecence) is seen in a statement he makes in the speech linked above. After all these great advances and lucrative wage contracts are signed and sealed.. just when you think that no one in their right mind would 'demand' more.... he does just that by saying "This is only the beginning".
He morphs off in his speech from speaking about the specific working conditions of the factory workers to some kind of grand global utopian vision and sounds like he is gunning for becoming el presidente....not just of America but of the whole world!
THE DREAM BECOMES A NIGHTMARE....in Detroit!
Most of his activities were related to the huge vehicle manufacturers, the big 3- GM, Ford and Chrysler in Detroit. Reuther's dream of a nanny company which looks after not just the workers but their families if the worker dies, their healthcare... retirement.... all of that was just the beginning. While he is imparting messianic utopian dreams to the workers in Detroit, there are others in the world who are gearing up to compete! Japan, Korea, Taiwan. Japan firstly with Toyota, Nissan etc... Reuther had build an economic house of cards where the hourly cost of an auto worker in the USA was like $80/hour in total, while the Japanese cost was something of a small fraction of this.
We need only look at the desolate wasteland that Reuther's Detroit has now become, how the "Big Three" have become the tiny 3, struggling desperately to keep their heads above financial water, having been bailed out (except Ford) by the public..... clinging to life in a competitive world....Unions in denial, conditions being compromised in the interests of survival... the whole shebang is crumbling card by card....
For those in Business, the big movers and shakers, the owners of capital, I have some wise words from a man you love to hate..I won't say who it is, I leave it to the reader to weigh up these words first...then feel free to google them to see who spoke them:
There are stern lessons in both of those quotes... for the Capitalist and for the Worker, it's not one sided. The important thing, as found in the Golden Rule expressed by Christ "Love your neighbor as yourself"
So for the budding entrepreneur and the fast rising company types out there, always remember that in the absence of natural justice in an enterprise, Walter Reuther's reactionary words will still echo down to now "This is just the beginning".
I wish it were possible to stop here, but it's not. The reason is found in the latter part of that first quote just above. When workers are viewed by ideological interests as an "instrument of....'the party' in political class struggle"...then it will not matter how much the industrialist or entrepreneur gives them, they will (like Reuther) never be satisfied. MLK also said "We will never be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream".... but the ideologically driven 'Party' says.. "we don't care how much justice there is, we will still find reasons, valid or invalid to scream 'injustice'...because we care only about power".
Think I'm kidding? perhaps just making it up as I go ? Nope... this is solid history. The best example I know is the great Australian Miners strike in 1949. A leftist Prime minister, Ben Chifley found a communist led militant miners Union made unbelievable demands of the state. Chifley called them in this and said to his inner circle.. GIVE IT TO THEM.. (he knew it was not what they were aiming at)... this resulted in the offer being rejected, because the Communists sensed and sniffed that they were close to bringing the country down! The documentary on this incident is most instructive and fully backs up the first quote above, though I suspect when you see the source you might not feel very 'warm' about it. Still.. truth is truth no matter who articulates it. Get over it.