Walter P. Reuther (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Committed to politically active unionism, Reuther helped organize the automobile workers in the 1930’s and led that union in the support of a broad range of social and economic reform in post-World War II United States.
Walter Philip Reuther was born September 1, 1907, in Wheeling, West Virginia, the son of a dissenting German Lutheran family. His father, Valentine Reuther, was active in local union activities and had become a convert to Debsian socialism, which advocated the gradual, democratic achievement of a humanitarian social order. The elder Reuther campaigned extensively for Eugene V. Debs for president, and he, himself, sought a state senate seat as a Socialist. He imbued his sons with the need for greater social and economic justice and the necessity of independent thinking, and he taught them the techniques of effective public speaking and debate. Valentine Reuther became convinced that the labor movement should be organized along industrial rather than craft lines and that workers should be encouraged to use the ballot box as well as the strike to advance their cause. Unions existed, he insisted, not only to promote the selfish interests of their members but also as instruments for the achievement of broad social equality and economic reform.
Young Reuther’s own experiences tended to reinforce his father’s teachings. At sixteen, he dropped out of school to work...
(The entire section is 2556 words.)
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