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Maurice Sugar (1891-1974) was an American labor activist and attorney who served as General Counsel of the United Auto Workers Union.


"Maurice Sugar was one of the first American lawyers to become what is now known as a 'Labor Lawyer.' Before he was made Chief Legal Counsel of the United Automobile Workers, a post he held between 1937 and 1948, he had practiced as a labor lawyer and defender of the poor since 1914. Born in Brimley, Michigan in 1891, he was educated in the Detroit school system. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School where he was Editor of the Michigan Law Review. In 1914 he and Jane Mayer were married. She later became Supervisor of Elementary School Physical Education for the City of Detroit. Sugar's first client in 1914 was the Detroit Typographical Union (AFL), and before his work with the UAW he represented nearly all Detroit area unions including the Detroit and Wayne County Federations of Labor (AFL) and various AFL international unions. During the Tool and Die Makers Strike of 1913 he handled over two-hundred cases in the courts. During World War I Sugar was indicted and convicted in a conspiracy trial (1917-1918), as he was a pacifist, but he was subsequently readmitted to the bar and pardoned. Active during his youth in the Socialist Party he later became an important spokesman for what were then considered 'left wing' causes, including civil rights and racial equality. He was one of the founders of the National Lawyers Guild and an early advocate of pensions, unemployment compensation, social security and other such measures. He was singled out for provocation and even death by the notorious Black Legion, a Michigan-Ohio organization similar to the Ku Klux Klan. Sugar's work as UAW counsel saw him through many of the high points of the UAW history of which he was a part.... He represented executive board members whom Homer Martin tried to expel and was strongly involved in the local unions' litigation which was an important part of the factional power struggle. The sit-down strikes and the union organization of the Ford Motor Company, and litigation with it, were other important episodes of UAW history in which he participated until 1948, when he was dismissed. He continued in private practice, and with his civil rights interests, and his life-long pleasure in writing songs until and even after his retirement. He died at age eighty-two in 1974."

—Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University


Soup Song


 

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