Today in labor history: Leonard Woodcock born

Leonard Woodcock  was born to Ernest Woodcock and Margaret Freel  in Providence, R.I. in February 15, 1911. Ernest and Margaret were British immigrants that had lived in Canada before settling in the United States.

The onset of the Great Depression in 1929 caused Leonard to drop out of Detroit City College in 1933 and go to work as a machine assembler in Detroit were both he and his father became active in the union movement.

By 1955 he was elected as an international vice president of the United Auto Workers union. During this time Woodcock became active in the civil rights movement, marching with Martian Luther King Jr., fighting for the rights of people of color and women, and pushing for comprehensive non-discrimination rules. He backed the first policy for inclusion of  maternity leave in union contracts. In 1970 Leonard Woodcock would replace his mentor Walter Reuther as UAW President, after Reuther died in a plane crash. During his tenure as President of the UAW, Woodcock was number nine on President Nixon’s enemies list.

Woodcock retired  from the UAW and was named as head of the United States Liaison Office in China, which served as the de facto U.S embassy in that country.

After leading negotiation to establish full diplomatic relations with China in 1979, he was appointed the first U.S ambassador to China.

After leaving his position as U.S ambassor he moved to Ann Arbor, Mich. to teach political science at the University of Michigan. After decades of dedicated struggle in the labor and civil rights movement, Leonard died January 16, 2001 in Ann Ann Arbor, Mich.

Photo: Wikipedia (CC)


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