Skip to main content

UAW Vice-President's Office: Donald Ephlin Records

 Collection
Identifier: LR001404
The material in this collection reflects the range of issues that Donald Ephlin was involved in with the UAW, Ford Motor Company, General Motors and many industry, community and academic institutions. It represents primarily his work as a UAW International Vice President, but also includes documents from his membership on various boards and some personal materials relating to his years with the UAW. One series represents his work on the issue of quality of work life, though this is a recurrent issue throughout the collection.

Important Subjects: Auto Imports Community Action Program (CAP) Economic Alliance Ford Contract Negotiations General Motors Contract Negotiations Labor Management Relations Quality of Work Life Plant Closing Task Force Poletown Plant Robotics UAW Community Action Program Workers Compensation Legislation

Important correspondents: Alan Altshuler, James J. Blanchard, John Bowles, Bill Hoglund, Dan Luria, William Milliken, Daniel Roos, Art Shy

The papers consist of correspondence, department documents and memoranda, meeting minutes, contract negotiation documents and agreements, speeches and writings, publicity materials and press clippings, and records from many events and conferences.

Important Acronyms: AIF Annual Improvement Factor ASQC American Society for Quality Control BCBS Blue Cross Blue Shield BOC Buick Oldsmobile Cadillac Group of General Motors CAP Community Action Program CPC Chevrolet-Pontiac-Canada Group of General Motors EAP Employee Assistance Program EAM Economic Alliance for Michigan EPC Economic Policy Council EI Employee Involvement FEC Family Education Center GM General Motors GMC General Motors Corporation GMI General Motors Institute GMWDD General Motors Warehousing & Distribution Division HFCCF Henry Ford Community College Foundation HRC Human Resource Center IAW International Association of Machinists IEB International Executive Board IMF International Metalworkers’ Federation JAP Joint Action Process JAW Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Union LETC Labor Employment and Training Corporation MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology MQWL Michigan Quality of Work Life NAC National Advisory Council NAR New American Realities NIGPP National Industrial Group Pension Plan NPA National Planning Association NRC National Research Council ORD Organizational Research and Development PEL Paid Education Leave PCIP President’s Commission on Industrial Competitiveness QWL Quality of Work Life SAC Strategic Action Plan SPO Service Parts Operations SUB Supplemental Unemployment Benefit UAW United Automobile Workers U of M University of Michigan URW United Rubber Workers WAI Work in America Institute

Series Description: Series 1: Administrative Files Series 2: Committees and Boards Series 3: Conventions and Conferences Series 4: Quality of Work Life Series 5: General Motors Negotiations Series 6: Ford Negotiations and Other Files

Dates

  • 1960 - 2000
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 1980

Creator

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.

Extent

50 Linear Feet (50 SB)

Abstract

Donald F. Ephlin became active in the UAW at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Framingham, MA in the late 1940s, before joining the International Union staff in 1960. As administrative assistant to UAW President Leonard Woodcock from 1970 to 1977, and later Vice-President in charge of the Ford and subsequently the General Motors Departments, Ephlin played a key role in negotiations with both companies. He helped launch the Saturn Corporation and create a labor agreement which changed the face of labor relations in the automobile industry. Ephlin became widely recognized as an expert in labor-management problem solving and was instrumental in the development of employee involvement and in improving job security and the quality of work life for autoworkers.

The material in this collection reflects the range of issues that Donald Ephlin was involved in with the UAW, Ford Motor Company, General Motors and many industry, community and academic institutions. It represents primarily his work as a UAW International Vice President, but also includes documents from his membership on various boards and some personal materials relating to his years with the UAW.

History

Donald F. Ephlin became active in the UAW at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Framingham, MA in the late 1940s, before joining the International Union staff in 1960 as a member of the GM and Aerospace Departments. He served as administrative assistant to UAW President Leonard Woodcock from 1970 to 1977, participating in the 1973 and 1976 national negotiations with GM and Ford and international negotiations with Chrysler. He was first elected to the post of UAW International Vice President in June 1980 when he began directing the Ford Department. He led the union’s bargaining teams in negotiating with Ford in 1982, and that successful negotiation process was later used as a framework to help smooth out negotiations at General Motors. Ephlin became the vice president of the GM Department in 1983, where he remained until his retirement in 1989.

In the early 1980s, during a difficult economic period, the state of the U.S. auto industry was bleak. Stronger foreign competitors made it difficult to compete. Predicting the economy would fall even further, the UAW opened 1982 negotiations at General Motors and Ford several months ahead of schedule. The union was determined to maintain its ground and secure workers’ jobs or at least a substantial portion of their income. Workers at the two automakers accepted a wage freeze and COLA restriction in exchange for a strong job security provision‚ the Guaranteed Income Stream (GIS). The GIS paid high-seniority workers 50 to 90 percent of their wages until they found new jobs. The union also won the first restrictions on outsourcing, including a moratorium on plant closings due to outsourcing; company-funded training programs; a profit-sharing plan, and commitments from the companies to invest in plants that had been slated to close.

Job security was still the union’s number one priority as the Big Three began to bargain in 1984. At General Motors, UAW negotiators achieved a landmark no-layoff guarantee for workers with one or more year’s seniority. Eligible workers who otherwise would have been laid off due to outsourcing, technological advances or certain other types of productivity changes, were placed into a jobs bank and continued to draw wages as they trained for new jobs. The unions also won commitments from the automakers to develop new small car lines to better compete with foreign rivals. Donald Ephlin was a major player in all of these negotiations and became widely recognized as an expert in labor-management problem solving.

As head of the GM Department, Ephlin helped launch the Saturn Corporation and served as co-chair of the GM Quality Network. His knowledge and experience helped to fashion the 1985 UAW-Saturn agreement, which changed the face of labor relations in the automobile industry.

Donald Ephlin was instrumental in the development of employee involvement and in improving job security and the quality of work life for autoworkers. He was a charter member of the productivity forum of the Work in America Institute and served on the Presidential Commission on Industrial Competitiveness. He was one of four labor representatives on the executive committee of the Council on Competitiveness and was appointed by the Secretary of Labor to serve on its Task Force on Economic Adjustment and Worker Dislocation. He served on the board of directors of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Michigan, the policy board of the Joint U.S. Japan Automotive Study, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Economic Alliance of Michigan. After his retirement, Ephlin served as a consultant to unions and management in a variety of industries and was a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Ephlin died in 2000.

Arrangement

Arranged in 6 series - Series 1 (Boxes 1-4), Series 2 (Boxes 5-29), Series 3 (Boxes 29-36), Series 4 (Boxes 36-39), Series 5 (Boxes 39-46), Series 6 (Boxes 46-50). Folders in each series are simply listed by their location within each box. They are not arranged, so any given subject may be dispersed throughout several boxes within each series.

Acquisition

The records of the UAW Vice-President’s Office from Don Ephlin’s tenure were deposited at the Reuther Library in 1989, 1990, and 1994.

Transfers

Two boxes of audiotapes, videotapes, photographs and other A-V material were transferred to the Reuther’s Audiovisual Department (Box 51-52).

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Maureen Simari and Aimee Ergas on January 11, 2011.

Creator

Title
Guide to the UAW Vice-President's Office: Donald Ephlin Records
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Maureen Simari and Aimee Ergas.
Date
2011-01-11
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA