THE BROTHERS REUTHER and the Story of the UAW by Victor G. Reuther

THE BROTHERS REUTHER and the Story of the UAW

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Presiding over his first United Auto Workers convention in 1947, Walter Reuther introduced his father Valentine as ""an old fighter in the ranks of labor ... who indoctrinated his boys when they were pretty young and told them the most important thing in the world was to fight for the other guy, the brotherhood of man, the golden rule."" He also insisted that they have a trade (he did not), so Roy became an electrician, Walter became a toolmaker, and Victor, whose forte was words, went to college to study law. Soon and long they would be bulwarks of the oft-cited ""most successful union in the world,"" the UAW; and in their own way as striking an American family as the Kennedys. Soberly Victor tells the story he lived as son and brother, as union organizer, as national and international official. The disadvantage is a lack of positioning and perspective--from his account one does not understand, for instance, the formation of the CIO or John L. Lewis' role in settling the crucial Flint sit-down strikes. But the action is vividly reconstructed by Victor from the vantage point of the sound truck he manned during the Battle of the Running Bulls (i.e. fleeing policemen) when ""I felt for one quick moment that we were all back in the days of the early settlers, defending a small enclave against the enemy."" Also immediately present are the Wanderjahre Victor and Walter spent in prewar Europe (in Berlin, the Reichstag was still smoldering) and their two-year stint at the new Ford-equipped Gorky auto plant (basis of a ""Communist"" label that was to dog both of them); ironically, the long internal struggle with Communists in the UAW; Walter Reuther's postwar push for higher wages without higher prices and, later, his innovative programs for retirement funding and a guaranteed annual wage: the terrorist attacks that disabled both Walter and Victor and forced all three brothers to live behind barricades. Drawing on his own experience, Victor covers international labor developments from Tokyo to Italy to Sweden. Rich material, and Reuther makes it matter.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1976
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin