Publish date:
Updated on

UAW walks out on Ford

On this day in 1961, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union goes on strike at Ford plants across the country to win higher wages and better benefits for its members. It was the first company-wide strike since Ford had agreed to a collective-bargaining deal in 1941. Ford had been the last of the Big Three automakers to recognize the union, and it did so grudgingly; the UAW would organize his workers, Henry Ford famously declared, “over my dead body.”

The 120,000 workers at 88 Ford plants in 26 states who walked out on October 3 were not striking over the economic terms of their contract. Workers at GM had gone on strike the month before, winning substantial wage and benefit improvements and Ford officials knew they had to provide a comparable package or risk losing their workers to the competition. (Even so, UAW leader Walter Reuther told The New York Times, the company was stingy with its concessions, parceling them out “with an eyedropper—a little here and a little there.”) Union and company representatives had hashed out an agreement on things like pay and pensions the night before the October 3 strike deadline. Ford agreed to pay increases of 7 cents an hour (the average autoworker earned $2.85 an hour) and pension increases for each year of service; cost-of-living allowances; fully funded health insurance; supplementary unemployment benefits; and new short–work-week benefits that paid 65 percent of a worker’s regular pay for every hour under 40 that he did not work.

What the negotiators had not been able to work out were the non-economic issues: production standards, the speed of moving assembly lines, the number of Ford-paid union staffers in every plant and a company proposal to “red circle” the wage rates of 3,000 steelworkers at its River Rouge factory in Dearborn, Michigan. (This meant that the pay of current workers would remain high but that subsequently hired workers in the division would earn significantly less; this, Ford argued, would help it compete with non-union steelmakers who paid lower wages.)

On October 11, a little more than a week after the strike began, Ford and the UAW reached a national accord, but 25 of the local bargaining units vowed to keep up their strike until they could reach agreements regarding conditions and rules at individual plants. (These included parking lots, cafeteria facilities, washup time, protocol for job postings, seniority policies and overtime rotation.) One by one, those locals signed contracts and returned to work. By October 19, only one Ford plant was still striking: a stamping plant in Walton Hills, Ohio, that made fenders and side panels for almost every car in the Ford lineup. On October 20, Ford and the Walton Hills local reached a settlement, and work returned to normal.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Maze hunger strike called off

A hunger strike by Irish nationalists at the Maze Prison in Belfast in Northern Ireland is called off after seven months and 10 deaths. The first to die was Bobby Sands, the imprisoned Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader who initiated the protest on March 1, 1981–the fifth more

Iraq wins independence

With the admission of Iraq into the League of Nations, Britain terminates its mandate over the Arab nation, making Iraq independent after 17 years of British rule and centuries of Ottoman rule. Britain seized Iraq from Ottoman Turkey during World War I and was granted a mandate more

Britain successfully tests A-bomb

Britain successfully tests its first atomic bomb at the Monte Bello Islands, off the northwest coast of Australia. During World War II, 50 British scientists and engineers worked on the successful U.S. atomic bomb program at Los Alamos, New Mexico. After the war, many of these more

O.J. Simpson acquitted

At the end of a sensational trial, former football star O.J. Simpson is acquitted of the brutal 1994 double murder of his estranged wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. In the epic 252-day trial, Simpson’s “dream team” of lawyers employed creative and more

Operation Wallowa commences

Elements of the 1st Cavalry Division launch Operation Wallowa in South Vietnam’s northernmost provinces. A task force was sent in to relieve pressure on the U.S. Marines, who were fighting a heavy series of engagements along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). As these operations more

The shot heard round the world

On October 3, 1951, third baseman Bobby Thomson hits a one-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the National League pennant for the New York Giants. Thomson’s homer wrapped up an amazing come-from-behind run for the Giants and knocked the Brooklyn more

Clive Owen born

On this day in 1963, the ruggedly handsome actor Clive Owen, who will become known for his work in such movies as Closer and Sin City, is born in Coventry, England. After graduating from London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Owen performed with the Young Vic Theater Company and more

Hurricane Stan bears down on Mexico

On this day in 2005, Hurricane Stan bears down on the Mexican coastline after passing over the Yucatan Peninsula. The storm brought torrential rains to Central America and caused a series of landslides over the next several days that buried several towns and killed more than more

East and West Germany reunite after 45 years

Less than one year after the destruction of the Berlin Wall, East and West Germany come together on what is known as “Unity Day.” Since 1945, when Soviet forces occupied eastern Germany, and the United States and other Allied forces occupied the western half of the nation at the more

Battle of Corinth

On this day in 1862, Confederates under General Earl Van Dorn attemptto recapture Corinth, a vital rail center in Mississippi. However, the following day, the Second Battle of Cornith ended in defeat for the Rebels. Northern Mississippi was the scene of much maneuvering during more

War Revenue Act passed in U.S.

On October 3, 1917, six months after the United States declared war on Germany and began its participation in the First World War, the U.S. Congress passes the War Revenue Act, increasing income taxes to unprecedented levels in order to raise more money for the war effort. The more