Lee Cain, auto worker and UAW organizer, fighter for civil rights, and champion of the People’s Weekly World, died Jan. 13 at the age of 86. Lee was a relentless fighter for bettering the life of the working class, and constantly immersed in struggle and activity.

Lee was born in Mississippi in 1917. For a time he worked on the railroad. He came to the Detroit auto plants in 1942. After six months of work at Dodge Main Plant in Hamtramck, his wife and two children followed. He and his wife, Bernice, would have three more children.

His introduction to the civil rights struggle was the Scottsboro Nine case. He met Carl Winter and Rev. Charles Hill at a local Detroit demonstration protesting the murder of an African American youth by the Detroit police. His sense of justice brought him to join the Communist Party.

Lee was tireless in his fight for the union and workers through the UAW Dodge Local 3. From picket captain to grievance person, he was described as a “hell-raiser” whose work allowed others to gain benefits in succeeding generations. He was chairman of the FEPC and Civil Rights Committee for 14 years and Chief Steward for eleven. His work helped bring about the anti-discrimination clause in the Chrysler contract in 1961.

Incidents involving threats to his life and police dog attacks did not deter his commitment. His activities embraced community issues of racism in restaurants and city hiring practices, leading to the city of Hamtramck passing an ordinance in 1954 prohibiting racial discrimination in city employment. His work also resulted in Local 3 donating $10,000 to Black-owned Tri State Bank in Memphis to counter the discrimination of Black farmers who could not get loans in the South.

Lee headed a local labor committee to Free Angela Davis in the early ’70s. He continued work through the UAW Black Caucus, National Negro Labor Council, NAACP and DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement). He was involved in numerous local city political campaigns throughout his life. When he spoke, Lee’s favorite reference was to the Declaration of Independence, and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness … and how can you have these things when you don’t have a job?”

Lee’s vision of a better life through socialism was always his guiding motivation.

In his senior years, when Lee was well into his 70s, he committed himself to a neighborhood route to distribute 300 copies of the People’s Weekly World, maintaining it for several years. His door-to-door contact with the paper led to his election as precinct delegate in his east side Detroit neighborhood. Despite his ill health, his colleagues allowed him to maintain that post until his death.

Lee is survived by his wife, Bernice, five children, 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grand children.

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