Tuesday 3rd October 1961
The United Auto Workers (UAW) called the first company-wide strike against Ford Motor Company since the Ford’s first union contract was signed in 1941. During the late 1930s, Ford was the last of the Big Three auto firms still holding out against unionization, and it employed strong-arm tactics to suppress any union activity. In 1937, tension between Ford and its workers came to a head at the “Battle of the Overpass,” an infamous event where Ford’s dreaded security force beat union organizers attempting to pass out UAW leaflets along the Miller Road Overpass in Dearborn, Michigan. Several people were brutally beaten while many other union supporters, including 11 women, were injured in the melee that followed. It took four more years of struggle and a 10-day strike before Ford agreed to sign its first closed-shop contract with the UAW, covering 123,000 employees. The ascension of Henry Ford II, Henry Ford’s grandson, to the Ford leadership position in 1945 brought a period of stability in Ford-UAW relations, especially after Henry Ford II fired the powerful Personnel Chief Harry Bennett, whose anti-union stance had made Ford notorious for its bad labor relations. But in 1961, negotiations between the Ford Motor Company and the UAW fell apart again, and it took 17 days of striking before a tenuous three-year agreement was signed.