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The Bad Old Days Of Labor Negotiations In The American Automobile Business

While the labor negotiations between General Motors and the United Automobile Workers unfortunately ended up in a strike, it is important to note that these labor negotiations have been entirely peaceful compared to the bad old days of American automobile management violence against workers who wanted to unionize.

One of the worst examples of American automobile manufacturer violence against peaceful union organizers was the infamous attack known as "The Battle Of The Overpass". Henry Ford, Sr. hired a gangster-like figure, Harry Bennett, a former Navy boxer who organized an internal security force within Ford known as the "Service Department". Violent goons hired by Bennett attacked a group of peaceful labor union organizers who were merely taking some pictures to be used in an union brochure offering labor unions as an alternative to Henry Ford's own economic philosophy of "corporate welfarism". The union organizers hoped to raise the wages at Ford by organizing the company, but Henry Ford's hired band of thugs felt that using violence would keep the union out. One union organizer suffered a broken back in the attack, and others were seriously injured as well.

On one hand, Ford, was open to hiring African-Americans, and was one of the first large scale employers to actively offer jobs to this discriminated group of Americans. On the other hand, Ford was a man with strange ethnic opinions and very authoritarian. He openly wrote some booklets dealing with bizarre economic conspiracies involving Jews and even Adolph Hitler was known to be a huge fan of Ford with copies of his writings and photos of Ford playing an important role in his life and acting as an inspiration to his eventual drive to start WWII and to eliminate Jews. The Hitler government even awarded Henry Ford a medal for his support of that regime. It was thought that in the early days of Ford, Henry Ford might have been turned down for a business loan and had to seek a loan elsewhere, creating a lifelong vision of hate and antisemitism.

Today labor and management are able to sit across a table and negotiate their differences in peace. This is at least a big improvement from the the bad old days when the early American automobile business used violence to keep wages down and oppress the working class. But the struggle of workers to achieve better wages and job security still continues. Some things just don't change it seems.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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