Donald F. Ephlin Parkway is the main drag running through the home plant of Saturn Corp., General Motors Corp.'s subsidiary, in Spring Hill, TN.

It's named for a United Auto Workers union executive who retired in 1991 after 42 years as a UAW official, starting at GM's Framingham, MA, plant in his hometown. His final post was international vice president for the union's huge GM Dept.

Don Ephlin never made it to the top at the UAW, as many expected he would, but when he died at age 74 recently, his legacy as a labor relations innovator was firmly intact.

He was a champion of "workplace democracy," which came to be known as "participatory management," and he battled for worker involvement in decision-making at GM and earlier at Ford Motor Co.

His biggest achievement was the historic agreement signed in 1985 by the UAW and Saturn, GM's then-embryonic new small-car subsidiary. Saturn would not start producing cars until fall 1990, but when its 2,400 UAW-represented employees from 136 GM facilities in 36 states reportedto work, they had a contract unlike any other in the U.S. auto industry, thanks chiefly to the efforts of Don Ephlin.

They call it "The Little Grey Book" in Spring Hill, and it remains in effect despite continuing threats by UAW and Spring Hill dissidents to play by the GM master contract.

Saturn's labor contract was indeed different, an experiment (ongoing) in egalitarianism that gave Saturn's workers a say in practically every facet of the Spring Hill operation.