Press enter after choosing selection

Labor Leader Gus Scholle Dead At 69

Labor Leader Gus Scholle Dead At 69 image
Parent Issue
Copyright Protected
Rights Held By
Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.
OCR Text

August (Gus) Scholle, 69, who taught two generations of Michigan labor unión members how to win at politics, died today of cáncer at his cottage near Port Huron. He was the builder and longtime president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, a powerful leader in the Democratie, party and a strong voice in Michigan public affairs for 38 years. Shortly after his retirement in June of I 1971 as AFL-CIO president he feil victim of cáncer. At a testimonial dinner attended by more than 1,000 friends in October, 1971, he said, "I am grateful to be alive to hear all this. Most often, such praise comes too late for a person to hear it." In the audience were many hight-ranking Democratie officials Scholle had helped elect. A ninth-grade dropout who went to work in a Toledo, Ohio, glassworks for less than $25 a week, Scholle decided early to devote his life to organizing workers, and to political action as another tooi to build social reform. He chose the Democratie party, and set out to change "a gross inequity in distribution of income," as he phrased it Self-taught, he masked in later life a great knowledge of history, government, politics and law behind a manner of speech that was brutally blunt and consistently profane. For years he refused to let Republican political leaders into his labor conventions. He publicly called former Gov. George W. Romney a "phony and hypocrite," yet Romney later appointed ' him to the Department of Natural Resources commission on which Scholle served with distinction. Scholle was a hunter and fisherman, and on the DNR commission became an expert in the problems of state land use and acquisition. Among the political achievements in ment and workmen's compensation systems which are considered a model and offer some of the highest benefits in the nation, state income tax, reapportionment of the Legislature, election of former Govs. G. Mennen Williams and which he was a leader are unemployJohn B. Swainson, and Democratie majorities on the state Supreme Court. He also was successful in getting support of most of the Michigan Democratie delegation for Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey at the 1968 national convention. It was Scholle who did many of the things in Michigan politics for which Republicans wrongly blamed Walter Reuther. Among the few things he hoped for but didn't achieve were a graduated state income tax, and a trip down the Yukon River in Alaska. He carne to Michigan in 1937 as a protege of John L. Lewis, the famed United Mine Workers leader who made Scholle Michigan-Ohio director for the budding Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Tbat same year he met Walter and Victcr Reuther at a Flint labor rally I and Ihey became good friends as well as I allies in the labor movement. His I chievements as a labor organizer and I bargainer were many, although they I wero overshadowed bf the national I utations of Walter Reuther who became I United Auto Workers unión president and I Teamster chieftain James R. Hoffa. One oí the few men Scholle regarded I as a mentor and greater leader than I himself was George Meany, president I of the national AFL-CIO. When Walter I Reuther led the UAW out of the I CIO it was one of the greatest I poinfments in Scholle's life. He had worked and argued behind the scènes to prevent it, and the split crippled the Michigan AFL-CIO political arm, the Committee on Political Education (COPE). Scholle cornmented at the 1969 AFL-CIO convention: "their (Reuther and Meany's) bitterness was so great there was no basis for reconciliation . . . it's too damned bad." I