The 1950s Were Not a Golden Age for Detroit’s Autoworkers

The Industry’s Booms and Busts Brought Instability That Kept Workers From Getting Ahead

In the popular as well as the political imagination, the 1950s were a golden age for American industrial workers, especially for the hundreds of thousands who toiled in Detroit’s auto factories. The story holds that lucrative contracts negotiated by the United Automobile Workers resulted in rising wages and improved benefits like pensions and health care. A blue-collar elite emerged: primarily white male, industrial wage earners who stepped up into America’s middle class and bought homes in the suburbs, eagerly purchased new cars, owned cabins “up north” in Michigan, and sent …

Harlem Globetrotters, Olympia Stadium, Detroit, 1971

Mark DiPietro, recently reclassified
as the only kid on the street with divorced parents,
reaped the benefits when his absent father returned
at Christmas with Globetrotter tickets.
Classified as best …

Skip the Auto Plant, Obama and Mitt

Cars Aren’t Detroit’s Future—Or Even Its Present

We hear so much about presidential candidates–and so little about life in the states that elect them. In “Beyond the Circus,” writers take us off the trail and give us …