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July 8, 1968 – Dodge strike rocks Detroit

On this day in 1968 the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM), which consisted of black auto workers, went on a wildcat strike to protest working conditions at Dodge’s Hamtramck assembly plant. A wildcat strike is one not supported or endorsed by the leadership of the Union the workers are members of. In this case, the United Auto Workers.  At the time of the strike an estimated 70 percent of the workers at the plant were black, yet it was exceedingly rare for black men or women to rise to any sort of management position or higher within the auto industry. This observation became a primary cause for concern among the striking workers.

Some 4,000 workers participated in the strike that lasted two and half days. They ultimately prevented or delayed the production of 3,000 cars. In the subsequent Local 3 union election, DRUM ran as an alternative slate, but it did not win. However, the new organization drew notice for its militancy and willingness to challenge the UAW hierarchy. The strike itself has been viewed as an important component of the civil rights movement. 

Dodge workers on strike in 1968.

What happened after the 1968 Dodge strike?

The “Revolutionary Union Movement” form of organization spread from DRUM to other Detroit automobile plants. FRUM (Ford Revolutionary Union Movement) started at the Ford River Rouge Plant, and ELRUM (Eldon Avenue Revolutionary Union Movement) began at the Chrysler Eldon Avenue plant. These organizations came together as the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW), which formed in June of 1969.

The formation of the LRBW was an attempt to form a more cohesive political organization guided by the principles of Black liberation. A primary goal of the group was to gain political power and articulate the specific concerns of Black workers. While the LRBW was only active for a short period of time, it had a significant impact on increasing participation of Black workers in the United States in political action.

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