American automobile workers, 1900-1933 by Joyce Shaw Peterson

By Joyce Shaw Peterson

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Some carriage makers were successful in converting to automobile manufacturing; others turned to building bodies for the auto industry; still others simply went out of business with many of their workers going into the new automobile factories. In addition, several parts suppliers for the carriage industry directed their efforts to supplying the auto industry. 9 Before 1908, the market for automobiles was limited to the wealthy few who could afford the initial high prices plus the continuous upkeep of generally unreliable machines.

One way of estimating demographic changes in the Detroit auto worker population is to examine Detroit's general population statistics. These figures reveal a population undergoing clear changes in ethnic and racial composition. Table II-3 summarizes the important trends in race and ethnicity from 1910 to 1930. 6%. 7% in 1930. These shifts are all in the same direction as those shown in Table II-1 for United States auto factory operatives and laborers. Within the foreign stock population, a shift can be detected from 1910 to 1930 in the specific ethnic background toward a heavier representation of the newer immigrant groups from Poland, Austria, Russia, and Italy surpassing the older groups from Britain, Ireland, and Germany.

31 The Detroit Urban League was also active in recruiting black auto workers. The Urban League opened its doors in Detroit in 1916 and from the beginning served the function of an employment agency. Cooperation between the Urban League and the Detroit Employers' Association was very close. Until 1930, the salary of the Urban League's industrial secretary was paid by the Employers' Association, and the Urban League reciprocated by sending black workers to the Employers' Association's Labor Bureau to be placed in jobs.

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