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Ford vs. Reuther Round 1


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Around 10 years ago I knew a WW2 era veteran who described some of his father’s experiences with 30s era Ford firing practices. The father had worked in the Rouge complex and later the glass house in accounting. When white collar workers were terminated, they would arrive at the workplace to find their desk, personal effects, etc. gone. There would be no-one who would give a straight answer. The dumped person would wise up and leave the workplace to stop the humiliation. Ford Service Department would have done all the disappearing. The WW2 vet had spent his Ford career working on agricultural equipment parts manuals. He probably worked in a building along the Grand Trunk and Maple near where the Whole Foods is now.

 

     Maybe Walter arrived at work only to find his toolbox on the shipping dock ready to go out the door. Maybe his timecard was missing from the timecard rack. It was enough to get the message across.

 

     Around 15 years ago I participated in an email group with a man whose father had come from Tennessee to Detroit and had been trained in tool and die trade work. The father had not recognized Walter as a management member. Filling in the blank, perhaps Walter was performing as an informal hourly team leader. This man had worked on some tooling for the sale of the Model A manufacturing line that the Soviets purchased from Ford and installed in Gorky.

 

    Perhaps Walter was lucky to have left Germany for Gorky. I used to know a tool and die tradesman whose Central American born father had received a draft notice while visiting his grandparents in that era and ended up returning from the gulag years later worse for wear.

 

<Snip from UAW Walter P. Reuther (wayne.edu)> After an apprenticeship in tool-and-die work, Reuther left Wheeling in 1927 to find work in Detroit’s booming automobile industry and was joined later by his younger brother, Victor. A skilled worker, Walter easily found employment and eventually oversaw a team of die makers for Ford Motor Company. He characterized the industry at that time as a "social jungle" in which workers were "nameless, faceless clock numbers."

 

In 1932 Walter was fired because of his campaign work for Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas. The following year, Walter and Victor started out on a world tour, hoping to work at the Soviet Union’s Gorky automobile factory, which had been equipped by Henry Ford. While waiting for Soviet visas, the brothers stayed with relatives in Germany and learned firsthand of the Nazi domination of their parents’ homeland.

 

Once in the Soviet Union, the brothers and other foreign workers trained Russians in tool-and-die work at the Gorky plant. During their year at the factory, the Reuther brothers were impressed by Soviet industrial achievements. "We are seeing the most backward nation in the world being rapidly transformed into the most modern and scientific," Walter wrote in a

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According to the book "The Brothers Reuther", Walter  left Briggs for a Die Leader position at Ford. He found the pink slip in the timecard rack with no comment when people from Gorky started training in Michigan.

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On 8/2/2023 at 4:42 AM, James Peck said:

During their year at the factory, the Reuther brothers were impressed by Soviet industrial achievements. "We are seeing the most backward nation in the world being rapidly transformed into the most modern and scientific," Walter wrote.

The same could be said for Japan after the war. The British helped the Japanese auto industry, supplying knowledge and expertise, and even assembling cars there, including Austin Cambridges in the 1950's.  By the early 1970's, the Japanese auto industry far surpassed England for refinement and build quality in their cars.

 

Craig

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I heard a couple of UK immigrants talk of their earlier life experiences in the UK auto industry at the December SAH Detroit Chapter meeting. One point they made was that in spite of the decline pf the UK brands, the UK is still producing a sizable number of cars. I suspect many of those are Japanese brands.

 

The Ford-Ferguson joint venture collapsed after Henry's death, Standard Motors designed a Ferguson model they built for the Empire market. Harry copied it for manufacture in Detroit. Ferguson Fans tend tp not be too aware of that little hiccup.

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