Henry Ford was famed for doubling his factory workers' pay in 1914 and hiring minorities other companies turned away. But he often wanted a say in how workers lived their lives -- and when the United Auto Workers won its first contracts with General Motors and Chrysler in 1937, Ford vowed never to bend, using a thug named Harry Bennett to spy on, intimidate and occasionally attack union organizers.
This shot shows the beginning of the end of Ford's resistance. During a May 1937 march at the Rouge River plant, Ford's thugs beat union organizers bloody, and the attack was captured by news photographers who hid the film from those same thugs to get the photos published. The Battle of the Overpass led to federal labor charges that Ford fought for years, but it finally agreed to a contract with the UAW on this date in 1941 — matching or exceeding the deals struck elsewhere in the industry. For a feel of what workers at the Rouge plant faced in that era, check out this film made by Ford in 1939:
- Labor Issues
- Society & Culture
- Henry Ford
- United Auto Workers