Flint Sit-Down Strike


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Can you imagine a strike where the workers sit down instead of standing at a picket line? Most people can’t. Their used to seeing the usual picket line, with people walking and holding signs. But which way of striking do you think would hold the most power? I’m sure this is a question that with different people, would be an array of answers.

December 30th, 1936, the flint sit-down strike began. What this was was just that, workers sat down litterly on the job. If forced production to stop as workers sat right there at the production lines. There was no way for production to run with workers sitting down. And there was no way to just bring in other workers. As the sit-down strike continued many things happened. January 11th, 1937, heat to  the building had been shut off again. At what they called the “battle of the bulls” they had 14 wounded strikers, but yet the strikers prevailed. January 12th brought on the national guard toting machine guns.

The sit-down strike with GM ended on February 11th, 1937, with GM signing a single page contract. The contract resulted in recognition of the united automobile workers. Workers were given a 5% pay increase and were allowed to talk during lunch. Next to follow suit was chrysler, who within a month had a signed contract. And  in 1941 Ford, who apposed to unions, finally signed a contract with the UAW.

I think the new deal strengthened the union because workers now felt that if they stood together they could make their working environment better. During the strike I’m sure flint workers were feeling hopeful, but with every passing day were just wanting an agreement to be reached. In my opinion I think this new type of strike revolutionalized the way people were striking, only because they thought it would bring on less violence, even though it did not. Reading about the 1937 sit-down strike was very interesting, and it really makes you wonder that in todays day and age do you think a sit-down strike or a picket line would be more helpful? Though I’m sure there is alot of different views on this, what do you think?

11 thoughts on “Flint Sit-Down Strike

  1. Where would we be without unions? It seems that even today if unions hadn’t been formed, we would still be working more like slaves than valued workers. It’s really amazing to see how far we as a society have come when it comes to the treatment of our employees. Working conditions have improved so much in a span of less than 100 years.

    1. It is very inspiring to me to see how far we have come as a society in regards to a working class. Working conditions have improved greatly and I would give some credit to the Flint sit-down strike.

    2. As a society, we have come a long way in relation the the rights that workers have. I give a lot of credit to the Flint Sit-Down Strike. I feel that they accelerated the timeline to receive these rights. They were persistent and helped to get us these rights earlier than one ever would have thought. I admire there desire to form a union and it has lasting effects that we see every day.

      1. Though there are many places now who still won’t go union, I think it’s a good thing we have them. Even when unemployed people with union halls can call in and see if any companies within their union are looking for help.

      2. Yes exactly, and just like the Saginaw lumber strike, it led to greater things for the working class. Employers finally were understanding here, that employees, weren’t there just for their personal gain.

    3. Even in the past weeks readings unions have played an incredible role. Without unions fighting for better working conditions and manageable hours we may still be slaving away in dangerous factories or mines for dollars a day. It only makes sense that our unions and conditions change and adapt to our society now.

  2. I was surprised that Ford was able to keep the union out for another 4 years after the GM sit down strikes. Ford workers were treated badly for a long time and I wonder why they didn’t strike before GM did. The GM sit down strikes definitely reshaped the auto industry (and many other industries) by improving employee/employer relations through unions.

    1. It sounded as though all manual workers were treated badly, especially auto industry employees. So although the Ford employees may have been treated badly, you have to remember that they were receiving a higher pay for at least a small point in time, which may have kept off the striking and the creation of a union.

  3. The one thing that stuck out to me most in this post is the contract GM signed at the end of the strike. GM agreed to give their workers a 5% increase, which is good. But the crazy thing is that with the signing of the contract employees were allowed to talk during lunch. I wonder what GMs point was behind not allowing their employees to talk on their break in the first place?

  4. I like how you mention the dates this happened. It is easy to forget that this was during the coldest months of the year until you see the dates. Then knowing they had no heat when the temperatures could get to below 0 makes for a bigger impact. These men were willing to endure the cold, and not seeing their loved ones for over a month to change the conditions they were working in. I personally hate to be cold, and this makes me think what I would be willing to fight for and endure the freezing temperatures and not having my babies there to hold for. I am so thankful for the men and women who stood (or sat) and helped us form the workforce we have today.

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