In the early to mid-1900s, workers began to stand up for their rights, demanding better pay, improved working conditions, and to not sell their souls to the company store. While America's workforce stood in solidarity on the picket line, union organizers took on corporate owners at the bargaining table. The Reuther brothers, Victor, Walter, and Roy, were among them.
The lives and legacy of the social, labor, and civil rights activists has been captured in the award winning documentary "Brothers on the Line." Directed by Sasha Reuther, grandson of Victor, the film follows the Reuther brothers from their rise as shop floor organizers in 1930's Detroit, leaders in collective bargaining, crusaders during the Civil Rights movement, and leaders of the United Auto Workers union.
From his Porter Street Pictures production company in New York City, Sasha Reuther said he directed "Brothers on the Line" since very little is known about this important aspect of American history.
"I grew up around my grandfather Victor’s stories of his involvement in this incredible part of American history," Reuther said. "So when I discovered that I wanted to be a filmmaker and became passionate about documentaries, it seemed rather obvious that I should explore the family saga at my fingertips. The other driving force behind my decision to make this film was the severely limited national curriculum on labor studies. There is relatively no coverage of the union movement in the typical high-school classroom and that’s really sad."
Born in Wheeling, West Va., the Reuther brothers learned at an early age the importance of social reform. Their father was a union activist and supported Terre Haute native Eugene Debs, a Socialist candidate for the United States presidency
While in their early 20s, Victor and Walter visited Russia where they worked in an automobile factory. Upon returning to the U.S., Victor found employment at the Kelsey-Hayes Wheel Company in Flint, Mich. While there, Reuther organized a union that became known as the United Auto Workers. Reuther lent his support to the 1936 General Motors sit-down strike, and his ties with the city of Anderson began.