Reuther, Walter

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Reuther, Walter (Philip)

(1907–70) labor leader; born in Wheeling, W.Va. He worked at a Ford plant (1927–32) and then went to the Soviet Union to work at the Gorki Auto plant (1933–35). On return to the U.S.A. he became one of the founders of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and took an active role in forcing General Motors to recognize the UAW. During World War II he solidified his reputation as a responsible labor leader and was elected UAW vice-president (1942–46) and then president (1946–70). After World War II he became an outspoken opponent of Communists in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), to which the UAW belonged, and in 1952 he was elected president of the CIO. He worked for the merger with the AFL in 1955, but by 1968 he led the UAW out of the AFL-CIO because of differences with George Meany.

Reuther, Walter


Born Sept. 1, 1907, in Wheeling, W. Va.; died May 9, 1970, near Pellston, Mich. American trade union leader.

From 1942 to 1946, Reuther was vice-president of the automobile workers’ union. He became the union’s president in 1946. From 1952 to 1955 he was president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and headed its right wing. He was a leader of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) from 1955 to 1968. An advocate of class cooperation, Reuther repeatedly opposed progressive trade unions and the participation of the Communist Party of the USA in trade union activities. Late in life, he tried to dissociate himself from the overtly reactionary course of the AFL-CIO leadership.