By ED FINKELSTEIN
The memory of the United Auto Worker’s dynamic leader Walter Reuther is alive and well in the spirit of a newborn: Meet Walter Reuther Schindler, the 11-week-old son of two committed union members whose family history is steeped in unionism, especially the UAW.
To commemorate that family history with the UAW, mom Renee Freeman, an IBEW Local 1 pre-apprentice working at Guarantee Electric, and dad David Schindler, a plumber member of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562, named their first child after the iconic Walter Reuther.
“My parents were third generation UAW members… and Walter Reuther has been my personal hero since I was a kid,” Renee says proudly. Her mother, father and grandfather were all UAW members, as were an aunt and uncle. And the family history extends to David’s side as well; his father was a member of Machinists District 9.
“Walter Reuther was one of the greatest role models for all union members. I love educating people that ask about the namesake. The staff at the hospital asked if I was a history teacher when I told them of all the great things he accomplished. I feel like our country would be a better place if more people knew his history.”
With the smile of a new mother, she added: “I hope my Walter grows up to display the same modesty, family orientation and character no matter what career path he chooses.”
Walter was born May 20, weighing in at seven pounds, nine ounces and measuring 20-1/2 inches long. “We couldn’t be happier to have such a happy and healthy baby!”
A MAN OF THE TIME
A man of his time, Reuther spoke in plain terms to his members. One poignant comment made at the union’s 1970 convention rings so true today:
“There’s a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls.”
Or as has been said so many times, “Elections have consequences.”
Reuther was president of the UAW from 1946 until his death in 1970 in a place crash. Under his leadership, the UAW grew to more than 1.5 million members, becoming one of the largest unions in the United States.
Reuther was widely admired as the model of a reform-minded, liberal, responsible trade unionist—the leading Labor intellectual of his age, a champion of industrial democracy and civil rights who used the collective bargaining process and Labor’s political influence to advance the cause of social justice for all Americans.