The Flint sit-down was the only way to effectively strike for the workers. Since they were unskilled workers if they to strike as usual the management would call in strikebreakers, of whom were usually from the Black Legion trying to get rid of the “Communist” workers, and the workers would be replaced with new ones. The American Federation of Labor had also refused to recognized the unskilled workers because they were automotive workers. This is why the Flint sit-down strike had worked so well, because management was afraid to ruin any equipment inside the plants, so they had to peacefully make negotiations with the workers and demands. In this blog I will further go into detail about how the New Deal strengthened unionism, how the Flint workers may have felt in the strike, and how this strike was revolutionary to the relations in the work place.
The New Deal had assisted in the strengthening of unionism with several different programs to help the economy jumpstart. The several different programs had started new branches of jobs to employ those who were among the thousands that were unemployed. Under the New Deal, the unions also recognized many more jobs such as automotive workers. This established a new base for workers looking to get better treatment. However, the working conditions in which we have today did not develop overtime and took many more years to develop. President Roosevelt had helped guide along this with his New Deal which help get the unemployment rate down.
The Flint workers had gone through some rough times before and during the strike. At first they had not known what tough yet rewarding challenges they would face. To further explain, General Motors had made it more difficult on the strikers by shutting off the heat and lighting, even though it was winter. Even though this made it harder, the strikers pushed through to see the end. They may have felt that there was no end in sight and many were missing their family members, however, all were pushing through the conditions. As it was stated in the Flint Sit-Down videos, the workers had seen the support of those who gathered outside of the plants. For example, when the National Guard had come, there were people outside of the plant of whom had gone up to the commander and told them that they were peacefully supporting the strikers and they need to take the bayonets off of their rifles. The commander listened and the bayonets were taken off and the National Guards stood at ease. The strikers most likely had felt the joy and pride when seeing this all come to an end and knowing they accomplished something that would change the working representation and eventually the conditions.
These strikes completely revolutionized the relations between employees and employers because they called for a better representation and listening to the needs. The employers all started to recognize the unions because of either fear of other strikes or to end the current ones. This led to better representation for the workers and for better working conditions, such as not as strenuous working days and the rehiring of those who were fired because of unionizing. Unfortunately, Ford had taken longer to comply and recognize the unions. It wasn’t until he was court ordered to recognize the unions and rehire those he had fired that the conditions better at Ford instead of worsening. The relations had become more professional in the sense of the employers having to respect the needs and desires of the workers.
In my opinion, if the strikers had gone down a different road of doing, the way the working conditions are now may not be as far along as they are. There were some unfortunate events that had occurred during the strike. For example, when the police had tried to disburse the strikers with tear gas it only ended up getting more violent than hoped and, as stated in the book and video, about 14 of the strikers had been injured from the bullets that were fired. This was because they had used the materials they had to make slingshots to fight back against the police. This sit-down was a great way to force the companies to have to negotiate with the strikers to come to a peaceful conclusion that had met the demands and needs from the workers and unions.
Overall, the Flint sit-down strike at GM had started a chain reaction throughout the Big Three. Even though it took a while for them all to comply with recognizing the union, the strikers had accomplished the demands they had requested. By starting a strike that revolutionized the relations between employer and employee, using the New Deal to strengthen unionism, and maintaining a mainly peaceful strike, the Flint Sit-Down helped pave the way for the recognition of unions in the workplace.
Rubenstein, B. A., & Ziewacz, L. E. (2014). 8 & 9. In Michigan : A History of the Great Lakes State (5th ed.). Wiley.