Legend has it that during a brutal contract bar -gaining session, Harry Bennett, Hen-ry Ford’s enforcer, attempted to break the tension by passing around snapshots taken during a visit to Maxon Lodge, a gorgeous hideaway in the woods of northern Michigan.
Walter Reuther, architect of the United Auto Workers’ rise, looked over the photographs, tossed them on the table and said to Bennett: “Come the revolution, we’ll own that place.”
It was no idle threat. In 1967, flush with cash from a bulging membership, the UAW purchased the lodge and 1,000 acres on Black Lake.
And, as often happens with revolutionaries, the temptations of power were too strong to resist.
The UAW turned the lodge into a stunning and sprawling $33 million complex, adding another 200 acres and a $6 million golf course rated among the best 100 public courses in the nation.
Although it bills itself as an education center, it is actually a world-class resort, long a favorite spot for the union’s leaders to unwind. Reuther, who made the place his personal retreat, died in a plane crash on his way to Black Lake in 1970. His ashes are scattered on the grounds.
But today a “For Sale” sign hangs from the resort, which has required more than $25 million in subsidies from the union’s depleted treasury over the past five years. The UAW’s membership has fallen to roughly 430,000, from a peak of 1.5 million in 1979.
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