By Jeff Gilbert

DEARBORN — (WWJ) The United Auto Workers Union commemorated the 75th anniversary of the famous “Battle of the Overpass” Friday outside the Ford Rouge complex.

Union leaders unfurled a banner reading “Working from a dark past to build a brighter future”that will hang from the overpass where on May 26, 1937, Walter Reuther and others were beaten by Ford security as they worked to organize workers at the plant. While the photos from that beating shocked the world, it still took four more years before Ford officially recognized the union.

“Once we got organized, people started realizing that the union means a great deal for a lot of people,” said retiree Fred Watts, who worked at the Rouge plant for 37 years.

Watts and several dozen other UAW members and representatives were on hand for the commemoration.

“That was the beginning of the organizing of Ford,” said UAW Local 600 President Bernie Ricke. “How far we’ve come since then.”

That was obvious from the mid-day ceremony. Ford security watched discretely from a distance, and at least two Ford executives from the plant came down to join the workers.

“Ford started out, obviously, with the worst relationship,” said Ricke. “It took four years after GM and Chrysler to organize. Over the years, I think we have the best relationship, at this point.”

The union’s press release announcing the commemoration took pains to praise Ford’s turnaround, from the quality of the F-150’s now built at the Rouge plant…to the return of Ford’s iconic blue oval logo this week.

“This is an opportunity to recognize how much has been achieved in these 75 years,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs the union’s Ford Department, in a statement. “What drove us apart in 1937 now brings us together to produce some of the world’s highest quality and most popular cars and trucks.”

Current Ford workers like Roman Nassar said that people who see the banner, need to think of the sacrifices that have been made over the years.

“It’s a reminder of our past struggle, and our ongoing struggle. It never ceases.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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