Walter Philip Reuther (September 1, 1907 – May 9, 1970) was an American labor union leader, who made the United Automobile Workers (UAW) a major force not only in the auto industry but also in the Democratic Party and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the mid 20th century. He was a socialist in the early 1930s and worked closely with the Communist Party in the auto industry in the middle and late 1930s. He was a leader in removing communists from the offices in UAW and CIO in the 1940s. By 1949 he had become a leading liberal and supporter of the New Deal coalition, working to strengthen the labor union movement, raise wages, and give union leaders a greater voice in state and national Democratic party politics. During the 1960s he was a major supporter of the civil rights movement.
Reuther was born in Wheeling, West Virginia on September 1, 1907, the son of a socialist brewery worker who had emigrated from Germany. Throughout his career he was close to his brothers and co-workers Victor Reuther and Roy Reuther. Reuther joined the Ford Motor Company in 1927 as an expert tool and die maker. He was laid off in 1932 as the Great Depression worsened. His Ford employment record states that he quit voluntarily, but Reuther himself always maintained that he was fired for his increasingly visible socialist activities. He and his brother Victor went to Europe and then worked 1933–35 in an auto plant (GAZ) at Gorky in the Soviet Union being built with the cooperation of Henry Ford. While a committed socialist, he never became a communist. At the end of the trip he wrote, "the atmosphere of freedom and security, shop meetings with their proletarian industrial democracy; all these things make an inspiring contrast to what we know as Ford wage slaves in Detroit. What we have experienced here has reeducated us along new and more practical lines." Reuther returned to the United States where he found employment at General Motors and became an active member of the United Automobile Workers (UAW)...
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