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Retired United Auto Workers Vice President Cal Rapson died Wednesday, 55 years after first joining the union. 

In a statement, the union did not release details about Rapson's cause of death, although it not believed to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping Michigan and the nation. He was 75 and a resident of Swartz Creek, according to public records.

Rapson was an outspoken advocate for Flint-based autoworkers who served two terms as the vice president, UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement: “Our brother, Cal Rapson, always described himself as a Flint man, but he was far more than that. He was an activist, a dedicated leader and a fighter for UAW members and America’s working families.”

The UAW said Rapson was first elected vice president in June 2002. He was subsequently re-elected to a second term in June 2006. He directed the UAW’s Aerospace, Agricultural Implement and General Dynamics departments, as well as those representing UAW members at Lear Corp., Guide Corp. and American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. during his first term as vice president.

Rapson also directed the union’s national Skilled Trades, Veterans, Chaplaincy, Conservation, Recreation and Consumer Affairs Departments. During his second term, Rapson served as director of the UAW GM, Delphi, Skilled Trades and Veterans Departments.

“We will always remember Brother Rapson for his many contributions and for never giving up the UAW’s fight for all working families and for his lifetime of service to our union,” Gamble said.

Prior to being elected to a national vice presidency, Rapson held various elected positions in its Local 659, including a tenure as its top negotiator for Sub-Council 9. The union said Rapson was elected chair of the national negotiation team that successfully bargained the 1982 Master Agreement between the UAW and GM.

Rapson also served as coordinator of Active Training Programs at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources. In 1989, the UAW said Rapson was appointed by then-union Vice President Stephen Yokich to be an administrative assistant in the union’s GM Department. 

klaing@detroitnews.com 

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