UAW Solidarity House | 8000 East Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48214 | p. (313) 926-5000
© Copyright 2013 UAW. All Rights Reserved.
UAW active and retired members helped mark the 75th anniversary of The Battle of the Overpass on Friday, May 25. The Battle of the Overpass happened on May 26, 1937, in which Walter Reuther and other UAW organizers were brutally beaten by Ford Motor Co.security guards.Images of the unprovoked violence helped the UAW win popular support to organize at Ford, the last of the Big Three to be organized.
"It's important that we remember our history because the sacrifice, the bloodshed and the lives lost to protect the rights of workers here is significant," said UAW Local President Bernie Ricke. "It was a turning point in our labor history. It's also important to recognize that over the years, our relationship with Ford has continued to improve and is one of the best we have with the Big Three today. We are proactive and cooperative. Our success tells the story."
Elijah "Smiley" Buxton, 85, is the recording secretary for the Local 600 retiree chapter. He started at Ford in 1948: "Having a union meant being able to sit at the table with management to hash out some rules that were fair. Prior to that we didn't have any benefits, no health & safety standards. Nothing. Hiring and firing was based on personality alone sometimes. The union evened the playing field for everyone."
Freddie Watts, a high-low driver who started in 1964 and retired after 37 years of service, is an executive board member of the retiree chapter: "I try to tell the young people to get involved. They might not recognize why the union is important today but time and experience will show them just what was sacrificed so that they can enjoy the rights they have today."
Marshall Davis, financial secretary of the local retiree chapter, said, "Being here today to see this recognition is an honor. I'm proud of our union and what we have been able to accomplish through the years."
Story reported and photographed by Gwynne Marie Cobb and Denn Pietro. Historical photographs courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Archives at Wayne State University.