DETROIT – Carl Reinstein, life long activist for labor, civil rights, and peace, passed away May 12 at age 96.
Carl never “retired” after working in the skilled trades in the auto industry. He helped form the Detroit-area Labor Community Coalition for Jobs in the 1980s. At his retirees’ chapter of UAW Local 157 (now Local 174), he always introduced action proposals, particularly around civil rights issues. He and his wife Stella were also regular activists in the Grey Panthers and participants in peace activities as well as political campaigns.
Carl Reinstein grew up in New York during the Depression. Experiencing poverty and seeing inequalities and anti-Semitism made him question the system he lived in and had an influence on how he viewed the world. Carl’s neighborhood was a center of activity, with many organizations, including the Communist Party and Young Communist League YCL), and soap box speeches were a regular feature. He was drawn to the idea of socialism as a solution to solving problems of poverty and discrimination.
Carl took free art classes through the WPA, and continued art as a hobby throughout his life. He also took classes in Marxism-Leninism which explained the world to him. His activity in UE (United Electrical), which had radicals and Communists in its leadership, led him to join the Communist Party in 1938.
Carl served in the Army in World War II and earned a Silver Star for “gallantry in action.” After the war at a YCL dance for veterans he met Stella Berlin who had served in the WACS (Women’s Army Corps). They married in November 1946.
Carl’s commitment to ending discrimination involved him in early actions for integration of lunch counters in1946 in Washington, D.C. The struggle for civil rights was a constant in his life.
Carl and Stella came to the Detroit area in the early 50s and had two children, David and Lisa. Carl got a tool and die job at UAW Local 157 and later chaired its Civil Rights Committee for 13 years.
Christos Michalakis, president of the Metro-Detroit AFL-CIO, said of Carl, “I’m sad to learn about the passing of my friend and mentor, Carl Reinstein. Carl was a World War II vet, a former member of the UE, a longtime member of the UAW Local 174, where he was once a part of their Flying Squadron. He marched with Dr. King, and spent his whole life fighting for social justice. May his memory be eternal.”
In addition to his wife Stella and children David and Lisa, Carl Reinstein is survived by two granddaughters.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 15, at 2:00 p.m. at UAW Local 174, 29841 Van Born Rd., Romulus, Mich.
Photo: Carl Reinstein, left, joins fellow long-time activists Angelo Deitos and Dave Moore at an event honoring them in Detroit, Dec. 8, 2007. PW