Monday, April 25, 2005

Lee Sustar: the Strong Life of Dave Yettaw

THE LABOR movement suffered an irreplaceable loss April 14 when Dave Yettaw passed away at the untimely age of 58.


As a longtime rank-and-file activist and later local president in the United Auto Workers (UAW) at General Motors’ Buick City complex in Flint, Mich., Dave was a key leader of the New Directions Movement that challenged the contract givebacks and pro-corporate policies of the UAW in the 1980s. As president of UAW Local 599, he put his perspectives to the test, leading an important strike in 1994 that showed the union’s power by winning hundreds of new jobs after years of devastating cuts.


That victory rattled both GM execs and top UAW leaders, who conspired to oust Dave and the New Directions slate in the next local union election. “Vote for Yettaw and New Directions, and GM will close the plant,” Yettaw’s opponents said. Dave and his team lost--and GM closed the plant anyway.


As a retiree, Dave ran with a New Directions slate as delegates to the 1998 UAW convention and won, elected by workers who felt betrayed by the UAW. The convention took place amid a long strike at two Flint parts plants that had virtually shut down GM’s entire North American production system.

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