HISTORY OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS
Featured Site: Reuther Library, The Great Flint Sitdown
History of Local 985
History of the National organization
Local 985 Headquarters, as it appeared in 1951
Past Presidents of Local 985
Lower right: Fred Schultz, President 1987-1995
2nd from right: Rollie Cary, President
Lower left: John Ellis, President 1951-1981
2nd from left: Robert Kutscheid,
November 25, 1941:
UAW Local 985 Charter adopted and signed by President
R. J. Thomas, (then) future President Walter P. Reuther,
Financial Secretary/Treasurer George F Addes, and the entire executive
board of the International union UAW.
Twenty-eight year old Sammy Mackey elected first President of
the new local union. Sammy had become a close personal friend
of Walter Reuther and over the next 8 years would work feverishly
to organize and build Local 985 from the ground to some 2000 members
from over 40 plants.
October 31, 1952:
President Sammy Mackey (at 36 years of age) died suddenly and
unexpectedly of a massive heart attack leaving behind a young
wife Helen and three sons, Michael, Ronnie, and Dennis ages 9,
7, and 3 respectively. "Sammy gave the best years of his
short life to humane causes both in and out of labor and we know
now that the pace shortened his years." At that time there
was no economic assistance planned or available to assist Helen
Mackey with the raising of her three young sons considering the
loss of their daddy. Trustee John Ellis worked hard for over 18
months to raise funds to assist with this cause.
1953: John Ellis elected President of Local 985
There are not enough words to express the years of hard work and
dedication given to the labor movement and specifically to UAW
Local 985 by this talented and driven Labor Leader. It was often
said that "organizing" was John Ellis' middle name.
On several occasions President Ellis was asked by Regional Director
Marcellius Ivory to accept a position with the International Union.
Each time John gratefully declined in favor of remaining as Local
Union President and continuing to build the Local Union of his
dreams. A book could easily be written about this great man, but
suffice it for now to say that he remained president of Local
985 for almost 30 years and with the help of many others, succeeded
in building this Local union to over 4800 members out of some
85 plants. Around 1979 the bottom seemed to fall out as plants
began to close up and move south chasing cheap labor. In 1981
John Ellis retired, but in the same year he returned to assist
with a very difficult case which he had been working on for months.
John never made it back to the airport that evening as he suffered
a third and this time fatal heart attack.
- The birth of the UAW. 200 delegates meet in Detroit and form
the United Auto Workers Union. Francis Dillon is appointed by
the AFL as the first president. In protest, John L. Lewis helps
form the CIO.
- The second UAW convention is held in South Bend, Indiana.
UAW delegates achieve autonomy to elect their own executive board.
Homer Martin elected president.
- Brief sit-downs occur at Bendix and Kelsey Hayes. General
Motors workers begin a 44 day sit-down strike in Flint.
- UAW negotiates its first contract in the agricultural implement
industry following a 15 week strike at J.I. Case.
- As a result of a successful strike, Chrysler workers gain
- North American Aviation (Rockwell International) win their
first strike and gain UAW recognition.
- Walter Reuther and other UAW organizers are beaten by the
Ford security department in what has become known as the "Battle
of the Overpass."
- UAW is expelled from AFL membership and becomes a charter
member of the CIO.
- R.J. Thomas is elected president.
- Ford Workers gain recognition.
- UAW members support World War II by adopting a no strike policy
and staffing industrial plants for war production. Thousands of
women work in UAW represented plants producing war materials.
- Walter Reuther is elected president.
- Ford workers win the first company paid pension program in
a mass productin industry and General Motors gain partially paid
- UAW members win supplemental unemployment benefits.
- AFL-CIO merge.
- UAW members win fully paid hospitalization and sick leave
benefits, profit sharing at American Motors, early retirement
at Harvester and less work time at Caterpillar. In all major industries,
the UAW wins significant improvements for its membership
- UAW provides leadership in both the peace movement and the
civil rights movement.
- Walter and May Reuther are killed in an airplane crash.
- Leonard Woodcock elected president of the UAW. UAW members
win 30 and out retirement, improved insurances, significant cost
of living and the unbroken Christmas holiday period after a lengthy
strike at General Motors.
- Douglas Fraser elected president of the UAW. Workers win job
security protection, the right to participate in managerial decision,
and improved economic benefits.
- UAW negotiations help save the Chrysler Corporation and save
tens of thousands of jobs.
- UAW wins a 205 day strike at Caterpillar and successfully
fights off corporate demands for concessions.
- Owen Bieber elected president of the UAW. UAW negotiations
focus on improved job security and education and training benefits
for our members.
- Canadian workers voluntarily withdraw from the UAW and form
an independent union in Canada.
- Steve Yokich is elected president of the UAW.
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