NewsJul 15, 10:35 PM
By BOB HERBERT
Published: July 9, 2010
Bob Herbert Bob Herbert
In April 1968, the same month that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis, where he had gone to support striking sanitation workers, the president of the powerful auto workers’ union, Walter Reuther, traveled to Memphis to give the strikers critically needed financial support.
The sanitation workers were black. In his biography of Reuther, Nelson Lichtenstein noted that the check he handed over to the strikers was the largest outside contribution that they would receive. Some officials at the United Automobile Workers headquarters in Detroit were taken aback. “But Reuther forged ahead,” Lichtenstein wrote, “offering an impassioned defense of interracial solidarity.”
Three-thousand delegates to the U.A.W. convention later that year heard Reuther say: “We laid $50,000 on the line to demonstrate we meant business. Who helped us back in 1936 and 1937 when we were being beaten up and shot at, when our offices and our cars were being blown up by the gangsters hired by the corporations?
“Who helped us? The coal miners … the clothing workers … as long as I am identified with the leadership of this great union, we are going to extend a hand of solidarity to every group of workers who are struggling for justice.”
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