Walter Reuther: Labor Day Address

(1958)

On September 1, 1958, Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) labor union, delivered his Labor Day Address, which was broadcast over the CBS Radio network. In his address, Reuther expressed sentiments that one might expect from a labor leader on a day honoring the American worker.


Woven throughout the Labor Day Address, though, are a number of other themes. Historically, Americans had had a “love-hate” relationship with labor unions. One the one hand, Americans recognized that workers in many industries, such as mining and manufacturing, needed unions in order to bargain collectively with employers for decent pay and safe conditions. To this end, the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, also called the Wagner Act, supported workers' ability to self-organize and bargain collectively with employers. On the other hand, trade unionism had long been associated—sometimes fairly, sometimes not—with subversive, radical, and even Communist sentiments, and many...

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Walter Reuther (left) meeting with United Automobile Workers officials (Library of Congress)

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