The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Tribute to Dave Moore, Organizer of the UAW

Nov 23, 2009

One of the main organizers of the UAW at Ford Motor Co. passed away at the age of 97 on October 26th. He was a lifelong fighter, a militant.

Born in South Carolina in 1912, Moore as a child moved north, eventually coming to Detroit, Michigan in 1927. As a young man, Dave Moore joined thousands of workers and their families in the famous Ford Hunger March on March 7, 1932. Moore later said that day, when he witnessed Henry Ford’s secret police gunning down five men and wounding nearly 60 others, was a turning point in his life.

A black worker, he became a political militant of an important workers’ party at that time, the Communist Party. With other recognized worker leaders, he fought to break down the racist barriers that Henry Ford I had deliberately used to divide workers to keep out the union at the Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan, Henry Ford’s company town.

By 1941, nearly four years after the sit-down strikes forced GM and Chrysler to recognize the union, UAW leaders were focusing on government-supervised elections to get Henry Ford to accept the union. But throughout this whole period, Ford was adamant he would never give in. Organizers came under attack by Henry’s Ford’s goons and the Dearborn police. Discipline in the plants was ratcheted up. Workers rallied to defend themselves and their leaders. Dave Moore and other communist militants at the Rouge, like Bill McKie, were instrumental in organizing that collective anger and energy. Walter Reuther rewrote history, claiming credit for himself, pretending the 1937 “Battle of the Overpass” was the decisive blow to Henry Ford’s vehemently anti-union stance. In fact, the massive strike of 1941, where more than 50,000 workers shut down the Rouge, was what forced Ford to step back.

During the McCarthy period in the 1950s, Dave Moore and other working class militants came under attack by the government, with the support of Reuther and other UAW leaders. Dave Moore, along with others like Coleman Young, defied the Southern Democratic racist Congressmen who led the House on Un-American Activities hearings. And despite years of subsequently being barred from holding union office, Moore remained a recognized leader among his fellow workers.

He stayed active on the side of workers and fought against racist oppression all his life. His legacy should be recognized and remembered.