When the Detroit branch of the NAACP hosted its Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner, the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s remarks about the future of the U.S. auto industry recalled the glory days of collusion between the civil rights movement and labor unions (“Jackson: NAACP still has much work ahead,” May 3).
The United Auto Workers and civil rights leaders share a legacy. UAW President Walter Reuther marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham, Ala. The UAW also bailed King out of jail. After King’s assassination in Memphis, Tenn., the UAW made a donation of $50,000 for the striking sanitation workers.
Jackson now calls for collaboration in a continued economic struggle against capitalist forces of repression, saying “We must fight back and save GM, Ford and Chrysler — that’s our lifeline.”
But it was government policies that diminished this industry: Minimum wage laws, defined benefit pension funds, workplace rules, environmental mandates and fuel efficiency standards combined to make American-made cars a losing proposition. To organize civil rights leaders and unions to forestall ultimate bankruptcy for this industry is to celebrate living in the past.
Ralph W. Conner , Heartland Institute,