Former Windsor union leader Frank LaSorda dies at 89

An important leader in the history of Windsor's labour movement has died.

LaSorda guided UAW Local 444 during turbulent times

Former autoworkers' union president, Frank LaSorda, has died. (Unifor Local 444)

An important leader in the history of Windsor's labour movement has died.

Frank LaSorda was the president of UAW Local 444 representing workers at the Chrysler assembly plant. He took over under terrible circumstances, after the previous president was murdered by a disgruntled union member in 1977.

"When you look back in our history and you look at Charlie Brooks' death and Frank took over as president at that time — it was a very trying time," said Gary Parent, who worked alongside LaSorda at the union. 

"Frank did a remarkable job of pulling the Local back together again after that tragedy of losing our founding president."

Frank LaSorda, second from right, and other Local 444 reps look at a picture of Charlie Brooks which hangs in their office. (Unifor Local 444)

Parent said that LaSorda planned community events and youth sports games at the Local, and even invited young union reps to have dinner at his family home. 

Ken Lewenza, a former national president of the CAW, became a union steward during LaSorda's tenure and sought advice from him even after LaSorda left the position. 

"He would come in and offer advice and from time to time try to settle me down, because I obviously have a tendency of being a little bit more hyper than the average," said Lewenza. "But he always came in and provided good, solid advice in a calm, professional manner. Frank was never a yeller. He was never a screamer. He was very respectful."

LaSorda marches with autoworkers. (Unifor Local 444)

Lewenza said his mentor was part of the generation that fought for the so-called "30-and-out" policy, which allows auto workers to retire after 30 years on the job.

"He took full advantage of it. He took his 30 years, retired at a very, very young age, and today you can be proud of the fact that Frank was retired longer than he worked, which is very much significant and very much was his objective," said Lewenza. 

There are now 600 retirees with the union who have been retired longer than they worked, said Lewenza. 

LaSorda's funeral is set for Wednesday at Windsor Chapel, just blocks away from the union hall and the Chrysler assembly plant. Mayor Drew Dilkens has asked for all city facilities to lower flags to half mast.

LaSorda died on Sunday at the age of 89.

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