Nearly 80 years ago, the Battle of the Overpass was a national PR disaster for Ford Motor Company.

Things were white-hot in and around Detroit in 1937 when it came to unionizing auto workers.

The National Labor Relations Act, just established in 1935, gave workers a lot more rights when it came to organizing, and it included the right to distribute information at the gates of factories to get out the truth about what it meant to join a union and gain workers' rights.

The United Auto Workers had had some big successes at Chrysler and General Motors and was gaining ground with Ford, but the latter company fought hard against letting the union in.


One of the key events that turned the tide has been known ever since as The Battle of the Overpass, at Ford's massive River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan.

On May 26, 1937, the UAW decided to take action with an informational flyer and newsletter campaign talking about the newly-won rights under the NLRA as well as a campaign to raise wages from $6 for an 8-hour work day ($99 in today's dollars) to $8 for a 6-hour day ($132 today).

Sure, they were shooting high, but it was designed to get attention — and to get Ford talking. The River Rouge plant, one of the largest of its kind in the world, had 9,000 workers that the UAW wanted to reach.


Original flyer passed out at the gate, Ford River Rouge Plant, 1937. Image via Walter P. Reuther Library.

After many workers took the flyers that the roughly 40 organizers had been passing out all day long, UAW organizers Walter Reuther, Richard Frankensteen, and two more gathered on the pedestrian overpass over Miller Road at gate 4 of the plant for photos by Detroit News photographer James R. "Scotty" Kilpatrick. The Ford logo was behind them, which is why they chose that spot.

It was a fateful decision.

Private security guards from Ford came out (some estimates were as high as 40) and attacked them.

"Just look at the smiles on their ... OWWW! STOP THAT!" Image by James Kilpatrick/Detroit News via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

The organizers were beat, kicked, thrown down stairs (breaking the back of one of the men), and slammed into the ground.

The photographer was also accosted by the guards, who demanded he turn over the photographic plates to them so they could be destroyed. In a brilliant move, he hid the actual plates under the seat of his car and gave them blanks.

Those damned union thugs. Oh, wait ... Image by James Kilpatrick/Detroit News via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

This turned out to be a crucial decision. After the battle was over, Ford immediately began to spin the incident to make itself look like the victim.

The head of security for Ford, Harry Bennett, told Time magazine that the "affair was deliberately provoked by union officials ... they simply wanted to provoke a charge of Ford brutality. ... I know definitely no Ford service man or plant police were involved in any way in the fight."

But as soon as Kilpatrick's photographs were developed, they hit the presses, and the tide turned quickly when newspapers all over the country featured the brutality of Ford's hired goons. Public opinion was firmly on the side of the workers.

In fact, when Henry Ford's lawyers and Bennett were called in front of the newly-established National Labor Relations Board on violating the National Labor Relations Act in dozens of ways, members of the press — such as Kilpatrick — gave the most damning evidence along with Ford workers who testified that if anybody who worked in the belly of the Ford beast expressed an interest at all in unionizing, they were fired immediately and escorted out of the plant.

All of this happened in 1937, and Henry Ford finally realized he had to recognize the union and negotiate a contract.

Walter Reuther (left), future president of the UAW, and organizer Richard Frankensteen are shown immediately after the attack. By the look in Walter's eyes, it seems he had a heart of gold. Image via Walter P. Reuther Library.

Three years later, the UAW finally had its first collective bargaining agreement with Ford.

The combined one-two punch of the publicity around the Battle of the Overpass and the National Labor Relations Board hearings gave Ford no alternative.

The UAW went on to help create good union jobs and, eventually, help millions of people achieve a middle-class income with health insurance and pensions as well.

Its peak membership was 1.5 million in 1979.

What can we learn from this?

In 1937, these workers fought for an increase in wages to make better lives for their families and their communities. They gave their blood, and sometimes their very lives, in order to make sure future generations had it better than they did.

We're at a turning point in this country. Unions now represent a historically low number of working people while income inequality is at one of the most extreme levels ever. These two facts are related.

It's time we rebuilt the labor movement and turned it into the force for good jobs that it once was.

BONUS! Get into the spirit of the times with this retro clip of a bird's-eye view of the enormity of the Ford River Rouge plant in 1937, complete with florid voice-over worthy of William Shatner.

For more, check the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University. Also, if you ever get to Michigan, UAW Local 600 has a collection of photos about the Battle of the Overpass as well as the 1932 Ford Hunger March.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.