Motoramic

October 3: The UAW calls its first strike against Ford in 1961

Justin Hyde
Motoramic

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By the time the UAW staged its first walkout against Ford Motor Co. in 1961, it had worked under a contract and with relative labor peace for 20 years, well after the age when Henry Ford's thugs resorted to violence in an attempt to stop labor organizing. As this photo of a Labor Day march in Detroit around that era shows, union support was still growing, and there were people alive who took part in the sit-down strikes of the 1930s. I'm not here to stir the pot on the politics of unions, but to make one small point about how things have changed. When the UAW went on strike in 1961, Ford had already agreed to raises, pension increases and fully paid health insurance. The average factory worker at Ford made $2.85 an hour, which equals roughly $20 an hour adjusted for inflation today. Yet new workers hired at Ford plants this year will make $14 an hour -- and likely never get benefits similar to what Ford and the UAW bargained for half a century ago.

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