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Flint Local News86 years ago, auto workers in Flint, Michigan, began a sit-down strike...

86 years ago, auto workers in Flint, Michigan, began a sit-down strike known as the Flint Sit-Down Strike

Flint, Michigan – The Flint Sit-Down Strike is often seen as the most significant strike in American history. It transformed the United Automobile Workers (UAW) from just a group of individuals into a powerful union. This led to the widespread unionization of the American car industry.

In the 1930s, General Motors (GM) in Flint, Michigan, employed many men, but the work conditions were terrible and the wages were low. The risks the workers faced and their general unhappiness set the stage for union formation. Earlier strikes in Flint in 1930 and 1934 were stopped by the company and local police. But in 1935, the Wagner Act was passed by Congress, making strikes legal.

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With this new law in place, on December 30, 1936, workers at GM’s Fisher Number One Plant started a 44-day sit-in. They stayed inside the Fisher One, Fisher Two, and Chevrolet Number 4 plants, refusing to work or leave.

Governor Frank Murphy chose not to interfere with the strike. In response, GM tried to make conditions in the plants unbearable by turning off the heat and electricity and blocking food deliveries. Despite this, the strikers stayed organized and disciplined. Leaders Bob Travis and Roy Reuther set up committees for tasks like cleaning, exercise, security, fun, and defense.

GM and its supporters saw the sit-down protest as a violation of American principles like property rights. Violent incidents happened between strikers, police, and GM’s hired enforcers, including the Battle of Bull’s Run. This led Governor Murphy to call in the U.S. National Guard to restore order.

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Also, women formed the Women’s Emergency Brigade to help organize protests and get food and supplies to the striking men. Children even joined in the protests.

Finally, on February 11, 1937, with their car production badly affected, GM agreed to terms with the UAW to stop the strike.