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UAW mourns 'dedicated leader and fighter' from Flint General Motors plants

 UAW members remained on strike in Flint while deciding whether to ratify a tentative agreement with GM.
UAW members remained on strike in Flint while deciding whether to ratify a tentative agreement with GM. (WJRT)
Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 2:53 PM EDT
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(4/15/2020) - The United Auto Workers union is mourning the loss of former vice president Cal Rapson, who died Wednesday.

He joined UAW Local 659 in 1965 as an employee in the former Chevrolet Engine Plant in Flint. Rapson was attending Michigan State University and working a summer job at the time.

That job turned into a career that spanned the rest of Rapson's adult life, culminated with an honorary doctorate in humanities from MSU in 2008.

“Our brother, Cal Rapson, always described himself as a Flint man, but he was far more than that,” said UAW President Rory L. Gamble. “He was an activist, a dedicated leader and a fighter for UAW members and America’s working families.”

Rapson worked as a machine repair and machinist, but he was more well known for his outspoken passion for defending workers' rights -- especially at union contract bargaining tables.

He was chairman of the UAW's national negotiating team that secured the 1983 master agreement with GM. After a year at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, Rapson became an administrative assistant in the union's GM Department.

UAW members elected Rapson as an international vice president in 2002 and 2006. His legacy includes the UAW Cal Rapson Endowed Scholarship & Fellowship for Michigan State University students whose parent or guardian is a UAW member.

“We will always remember Brother Rapson for his many contributions and for never giving up the UAW’s fight for all working families and for his lifetime of service to our union,” Gamble said.

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