I just received a note from Nathan Ayers, the guy who won the first $1,000 grant from A2Awesome. He wanted to let me know that, back in 1984, the television program PM Magazine ran a feature on Harry Bennett’s fortress on the banks of the Huron River, in Ypsilanti. Bennett, for those of you don’t know, was Henry Ford’s Chief of Security, and, as such, is rumored to have done all kinds of unspeakable shit in order to advance the agenda of the Ford Motor Company, and keep the employees from unionizing… Here’s the video.
And, here’s an interesting aside, as long as we’re discussing Bennett. I received an email a year or so ago from a fellow who claimed to have information about the murder of one of Henry Ford’s mistresses, on the grounds of Greenfield Village, at the hands of Bennett and his goons. As details were never forthcoming, and since it could well have been made up, I never noted it here, but I do wonder just how many people Bennet killed for Ford, and whether it’s conceivable that any of the ugly business was done on either the Village grounds, near Hitler’s boyhood home, or, here, in Ypsi.
Here, by way of background, is a clip from a short article about Bennett, and his role at Ford.
…Shortly before World War I, workers flocked to Detroit by the thousands, where Henry Ford promised prosperity by offering the then unprecedented wage of $5 per day for industrial workers. Ford opened job positions to African-Americans, in a age when they were denied many industrial jobs. Ford’s showcase was the River Rouge plant, an industrial power house where every auto part was not only assembled, but also fabricated.
In 1929 when the Great Depression struck, Ford cut back his workforce. Detroit, like many industrial cities, badly suffered through the economic outrage, with evictions and hunger.
Fearing communist influence, Ford fought unionization. He was aided in this effort by Fr. Charles Coughlin, a Detroit Catholic priest who won a national audience, first supporting Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, but then turning against it, offering race-based and anti-Semitic diatribes. Ford hired a former prize fighter, Harry Bennett, as his security chief, and Bennett ruthlessly went after any union sympathizer.
In 1932 hungry Detroit workers marched on the Rouge. The march was organized by Communist Party members and four were killed on the “Ford Hunger March.”
Eventually the union came to the auto industry, with General Motors the first to sign after the 1936 sit-down strikes, which began in Flint, Michigan. Ford finally signed a United Auto Workers (UAW) contract in 1941, but not before the “Battle of the Overpass,” where Bennett’s thugs beat Walter Reuther and other union organizers trying to pass leaflets at the Rouge’s gate…
Sadly, as very few in this country seem to know their labor history, and of the sacrifices that were made by our ancestors, who, in many cases, gave their lives so that we might have a middle class, a 40 hour work week, and laws keeping children out of factories, I fear that we’re going to have to face the likes of Harry Bennett again.