Alfred S. Warren, Jr., former Vice President of Industrial Relations for General Motors, died at his home in Grosse Pointe, MI on Friday, October 11. He was 87. His beloved wife of 62 years, Jane Stepp Warren, predeceased him in December, 2012.
Mr. Warren had a long and storied career at General Motors. He first joined their ranks in 1955 as a teacher and conference leader at the General Motors Institute in Flint, MI. Through the 1960s and 70s, he managed GM plants in Flint, MI; Warren, OH; Buffalo, NY; Cleveland, OH; and St. Louis, MO. Following a term in regional plant management with Chevrolet, he was named General Director of Personnel for the Fisher Body Division in 1977.
In 1980 Al became the Vice President for Industrial Relations, the company’s top negotiator, as General Motors attempted to move away from traditional adversarial contract negotiations. As Vice President, he negotiated the labor contracts between GM and the UAW in 1982, 1984, 1987, and 1990. He is especially remembered for promoting joint programs with the UAW. With UAW Vice President Don Ephlin, Al dedicated the cornerstone of the first UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, which promoted a problem-solving approach to collective bargaining.
Warren also played a major role in negotiating a break-through in cooperation with the Japanese automakers, resulting in a joint operating agreement for a General Motors /Toyota automotive factory in California.
He was part of the leadership team that developed the Saturn concept for GM, a new model for management and labor collaboration. The first Saturn plant, located in Spring Hill, TN, was GM’s effort to stem the growing dominance of the Japanese in the US small car market. It was considered a quantum leap forward in American competitiveness in the auto industry.
Throughout his life Warren was dedicated to his church and to his community. He served as a member and Clerk of Session of the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church and was a member of the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) He served as President of the Board of Trustees of Muskingum College and received their Distinguished Service Award. He was a member of the board of the Boy Scouts of America and was honored with a Silver Buffalo Award in 2000, Boy Scouts’ highest honor. Al also served on the Board of Trustees of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL and was a Director Emeriti of the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan. A Silver Birch Ring member of the Ruffed Grouse Society, Warren was a highly skilled and knowledgeable marksman. He was a 32nd degree Mason of the Scottish Rite, Valley of Cleveland, maintaining a membership for 55 years.
Al and Jane were generous philanthropists, their primary beneficiaries the Presbyterian Church and organizations that served children.
The Warrens traveled extensively. They treasured their many sojourns to their estate in South Africa where Al stocked the land with several varieties of African wildlife. They also often visited their farm in Sylvester, GA. At one time, the Warrens enjoyed being the largest peanut farmers in Grosse Pointe.
A graduate of Muskingum College (’48) in New Concord, OH, Al subsequently earned a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Pittsburgh. He married his wife, Jane Stepp, also a graduate of Muskingum College (’49), on July 1, 1950, in Indiana, PA. He began his career as a secondary school teacher and was then called to active duty by the United States Army.
Warren was born in Aliquippa, PA to Alfred S. Warren, Sr. and Martha Baker on April 1, 1926. His parents and his brothers, Jack and Richard, predeceased him. He will be deeply missed by his many friends, former colleagues, and his church family.
A memorial service will be held at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, 16 Lake Shore Drive, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236, at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, October 23. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in loving memory of Al Warren.