Former U.S. labor leader Owen Bieber, one of the country’s most outspoken anti-apartheid activists who also backed Poland’s Solidarity labor movement, has died at 90.
A longtime union member, Bieber took over as the head of the United Auto Workers Union in 1983, securing good wages, job security and other benefits for blue-collar auto workers at a time of recession and rising global competition.
He rallied the UAW behind the Solidarity movement in Poland and was a fierce critic of apartheid in South Africa. He traveled to the country, speaking out against racism and imprisonment of labor activists, smuggling photographs of tortured prisoners out of the country back to the U.S.
Bieber was arrested demonstrating outside the South African Embassy in Washington. He hosted Nelson Mandela in Detroit, Michigan, after the South African political leader’s release from prison in 1990.