Biography of Douglas Fraser
(December 18, 1916 – February 23, 2008)
Douglas A. Fraser, former president of the UAW, dedicated a life time of hard work and exceptional leadership to improving the workplace, the labor-management environment and the work lives of generations of people across all walks of life in our broader community. Adhering to fundamental principles that all people must be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and afforded a democratic voice in the workplace.
Born the son of an electrician in Glasgow, Scotland in 1916, Doug came to Detroit with his family at the age of six. Starting out at the Chrysler DeSoto plant as a "dingman", smoothing out wrinkled sheet metal, he soon joined the fledgling UAW and was elected president of Local 227 in 1944. Recognizing Doug's negotiating and leadership skills, Walter Reuther asked him to serve as his adminsitrative assistant. Elected co-director of Region 1A and given the reins of the Chrysler Department with his election as an executive board member-at-large in 1962, Doug was instrumental in negotiating many path-breaking, historic agreements in the industry.
Highly respected by all for his integrity, strong leadership, and adept negotiating skills and endeared to the rank and file by his personal touch, Doug was elected vice president in 1970 and President of the UAW in 1977. His leadership skills were critically tested during his presidency as the American auto industry was severely hit by international competition. Recognizing the need to be competitive, yet determined to protect the livelihood of UAW members, Doug fashioned innovative agreements to ensure that the UAW was a central player in the industry's long-term revitalization. As part of a historic agreement in 1979, Doug accepted a seat in the Chrysler Board of Directors as a means of influencing key business decisions affecting the lives of UAW members.
Doug retired from the UAW in 1983 and devoted his energies to the classroom. He was a lecturer at Harvard, MIT, the University of Michigan, and later became a University Professor at Wayne State University. Serving the university with distinction, Doug served on many advisory committees and commissions, including the Commission on the Future of Worker Management Relations, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Health Security Action Council, Families Foundation USA and the NAACP. He died on February 23, 2008 from complications due to emphysema.