R A L P H   A D A M   L I B E R A T O

UNIONS


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        Liberato…became active in the union in 1946 when he joined UAW Dodge Local 3…. as an experimental mechanic, he changed places of employment during the next few years carrying on his union activity at Motor Products Local 203, Chrysler Engineering Local 412 and Chevrolet Gear and Axle Local 235….

MICHIGAN AFL-CIO NEWS, March 1, 1967

U A W

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        After Ralph was discharged from the Marines, he was trained and worked as an auto mechanic until he hired into the Chevrolet Gear & Axle plant in 1951. Based on his background he was employed as a Design Check/Product Engineering employee, working in building #8, then called the Chevrolet Laboratories. The Gear was and still is, represented by Local 235 and from the first day he hired into the plant, Ralph became an active Union member. He was one Marine who would be a fighter for his entire life. A couple of years later, he was elected a member of the Shop Committee, an office he held until the Chevrolet Laboratories were transferred to the GM Tech Center in early 1955. We had eight units on site then and each unit was represented by a different Local Union. The name Chevrolet Laboratories was changed to the Chevrolet Engineering Center after the move to the Tech Center. It was an exciting time to be a member of the UAW in the mid 50’s and jumping into the bull ring was a real challenge. Back then it was difficult to get people to run for Union office, many members even refused to accept appointed positions. People such as Ralph Liberato, Pete Sturtz, Ray Green, Fred Murray, Henry Inkpen and so many others, were constantly harassed by Management for their efforts on behalf of the CEC membership. Back then the Chevrolet Division of GM had the largest number of represented employees, made the most money for the Corporation and ruled every Chevrolet plant with an iron fist.

        In November of 1956 the late Walter Reuther approved a charter for the Tech Center and UAW Local 160 became the designated Local Union for Tech Center employees. The new structure enabled the Local to elect its own Executive Board and in 1957, Brother Ralph Liberato was able to win a Tech Center wide election to become the first President in our newly chartered Local. The politics were so fierce back then, it was not long before we established a reputation as a rebel Local and we were in a constant battle with both Management and the International Union. Also, back then, Local full time officers had to pay their Union dues by hand as there was no procedure in place to deduct Union dues from their paycheck. Both Ralph and our Financial Secretary-Treasurer were removed from office by the International Executive Board on a technicality involving the timeliness of payment of their Union dues.


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        Our Local leadership at the Tech Center went wild and repercussions from the removal developed a bitter rivalry between the International Union and the Local that went on for years. The entire Local went to Ralph’s aid but were unable to reverse the decision. Brother Liberato had to return to the plant and Chevrolet Management made every effort possible to discharge him. He was constantly charged with shop rule and paragraph 117 violations. He was followed by a supervisor wherever he went on the plant floor. Labor Relations assigned plant security to watch his home 24 hours a day if he missed work for any reason. His children would also be questioned about his whereabouts.


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        Ralph was constantly disciplined until Management finally had his penalties up to balance of the shift and 30 days off, he was a whisker away from being discharged. By a quirk of faith or an act of God, Brother Liberato was elected to the Michigan Constitutional Convention as a delegate in 1961 and was granted a contractual leave of absence from the plant. After his obligations as a Constitutional Delegate were concluded, Ralph was hired by AFSCME as a Lansing Lobbyist and was again placed on leave of absence by the UAW. Though he did run for Convention Delegate from CEC throughout the years, he never returned to the plant floor.

A Tribute to the Late Ralph Liberato

by Chris Manning, TECH ENGINEER, June 2004

AFL-CIO

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TRI-CITY PROGRESS

April 11, 1962


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MICHIGAN AFL-CIO NEWS

March 1, 1967

AFSCME Local 411

AFSCME COUNCIL 23

AFSCME-PEOPLE COUNCIL 12

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THE MACOMB DAILY

July 26, 1966


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AFSCME Council 25

RETIREMENT DINNERS

Midway Motel, Lansing, Michigan - December 10, 1991

and

U.F.C.W. Local 876 - March 25, 1992

MICHIGAN SENATE RESOLUTION No. 314: A RESOLUTION HONORING RALPH A. LIBERATO

        Ralph will long be remembered for his uncanny talent of recalling names, his ability to put people at ease, and his genuine interest in working people and their concerns . . .

MICHIGAN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: HOUSE RESOLUTION No. 588

        During the past thirty-seven years, he has been a standard-bearer for the rights of workers and an example for everyone involved in the labor movement . . .

MACOMB COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS RESOLUTION No. 99

        RALPH A.LIBERATO’s unparalleled service to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union, and labor in general, the community, the less fortunate and the unemployed has earned him the admiration and respect of colleagues and business associates . . .

UNITED STATES SENATOR CARL LEVIN:

There are few people who can equal your dedication. Commitment such as yours is rare and you have earned the respect and admiration of all who know you.

UNITED STATES SENATOR DONALD W. RIEGLE, JR.:

At a time when workers are faced with many challenges, they can look to your lifetime of service as an inspiration for the future.

UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN DAVID E. BONIOR:

In many ways, Mr. Liberato has come to symbolize our dedication to fairness and justice in the workplace and society. His vision and leadership have always impressed those of us who have had the privilege to know and work with him.


WE ARE THE UNION

Ralph Liberato (right) with longtime friend Richard McKoskey.