Henry Ford's Bump In The Road

Henry Ford's Bump In The Road

Ford Versus UAW

Regardless of where your sympathies lay, the events of May 26, 1937 was a black eye for the Ford Motor Company.

In a blatant attempt to organize the Ford Motor Plant workers the United Auto Workers attempted to entice them to join the union by floating the possibility of an $8.00, six-hour workday as opposed to a $6.00, eight-hour workday. Ironically, Henry Ford was the first auto manufacturer to offer his workers double the going rate for manufacturing and to cut hours off the workday and a day from the workweek.

The incident began when labor organizers assembled at Gate 4 of the Rouge Complex to pass out leaflets to 9,000 workers entering the plant and the same number leaving it.

Two UAW union leaders were pressed by a Detroit News photographer to pose for pictures on the overpass.

Ford maintained an internal security department called the Service Department. These men, up to 40 plus strong descended on the union workers on the overpass and at Gate 4. Chaos and carnage ensued as the Service Department assaulted the UAW organizers. The women UAW members were not spared and were roughed up along with the newspapermen. The Detroit News photographer hid the photographic plates he had used to take pictures of the beatings, as well as pictures of the Detroit Police Department simply standing by and watching. Fortunately, the photographer was able to surrender blank plates to the Ford Service Department and use the real plates to publish pictures the next day on the front page of the paper.

Wherever your sympathies may lie, the incident improved the image of the UAW and damaged that of Ford, leading to the company signing an agreement with the UAW 3 years later.