Marc Stepp was the first African-American to lead negotiations at a Detroit 3 automaker.
The UAW’s International Executive Board and members recently bid farewell to Marc Stepp, “a trailblazer, a beloved union leader and a committed community activist,” said UAW President Dennis Williams.
“Marc set several milestones, including being the first African-American to lead negotiations at a Detroit 3 automaker. Just as important, he was a leader who always showed that UAW members cared just as much for their communities as they do for their worksites,” Williams said.
“Marc Stepp was a tough leader and he led the union’s Chrysler Department during a very difficult time. In 1979, when he lobbied Congress on behalf of UAW members, he proved that the voice of our members was essential to the company’s future and its success,” said UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, who directs the union’s Chrysler Department. “He left us with a foundation that we continue to build on,” Jewell said.
Stepp, born Jan. 31, 1923, in Versailles, Kentucky, passed away June 3, at age 93.
He left Indiana in the 1940s, moved to Detroit and by the 1960s had become active in Detroit politics.
He joined UAW Local 490 in 1942 while working at the Chrysler Highland Park Plant near Detroit. He was drafted into the U.S. Army soon after. When he returned to Chrysler, he began years of devotion to union ideals and held numerous leadership positions in UAW Local 490 and later served as Region 1B assistant director.
From 1974 to 1989, he served as a UAW vice president and director of the union’s Chrysler Department. He became the second African-American to serve on the union’s International Executive Board.
After negotiating steep concessions in the 1979 contract when Chrysler faced tremendous financial difficulties, Stepp lobbied Congress for $1.5 billion in loan guarantees for the company, and then oversaw difficult negotiations for another round of concessions from membership totaling $462.5 million. Always a firm believer in workers having input on the job, in 1980 he helped create the UAW/Chrysler product quality improvement program, and helped develop modern operating agreements at several Chrysler plants to pave the way for better cooperation between management and workers.
Stepp was also a member of the national board of the NAACP for 14 years and took great pride in his work during the civil rights movement. He retired June 30, 1989.
His work during retirement included serving as executive director of urban affairs and community relations at the University of Detroit.
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