Flint Sit-Down Strike Advocates for Working Class

In the 1930’s, unemployment was on the rise, and so was poverty. Those who obtained jobs often had horrible working conditions. Especially those working in automotive factories. The poor working conditions, along with the horrible wages led to the Flint Sit-Down Strike in 1936. The Flint Sit-Down Strike was a pivotal turning point in America’s history that resulted in recognition of the United Automotive Workers.

The Great Depression was an ongoing event when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected into office. His plan, “The New Deal” was implemented into society to combat the poverty that struck our nation from the Great Depression. Part of his plan included the Industrial Recovery Act. This act allowed workers the right to unionize. In Flint, this act was very important to the General Motors Factory. The working conditions were horrid at this plant. Workers had a constant fear of being laid off and had to work at an incredible pace (Rubenstein p.242). In addition, any little mishap could result in the loss of their job. The plants were not worried about finding new workers, as a mass of unemployed workers willing to find work were outsider their doors. Finally, thanks to the New Deal the workers had the right to unionize. This right, combined with the horrible working conditions led to the Flint Sit-Down Strike commenced by the workers in 1936.

The Flint Sit-Down Strike consisted of 5,000 workers. These workers endured the forty plus day strike with no heat or electricity. The strikers also ignored court orders that told them to vacate the building. These strong-willed workers would not give up their ground. This event was making history and the workers helped to carry the momentum of this event. The end result of the striker’s hard work and determination was the recognition of the United Automotive Workers. Even though the workers were tired and probably scared, they were persistent. This relentlessness that the workers portrayed helped to bring huge changes to the Automotive Industry.

The Flint Sit-Down Strike in Flint had a fantastic end result. The factory leaders that acted as tyrants had finally agreed to cooperate with the workers. This was a major game changer in the automotive industry. Workers could finally be given the rights that they demanded for so long. These rights included: increased wages, a closed shop, and benefits based on seniority (Rubenstein p.243). Gone are the days when the shop owner treated his workers like they were in a dictatorship. The workers could go to their employers with concerns, without the fear of being laid off. The Flint Sit-Down Strike had brought about this change. The relations between workers and employers was finally civil, after so many years of unrest in the factories.

The Flint Sit-Down Strike was a pivotal turning point in America’s history that resulted in recognition of the United Automotive Workers. The recognition of this union started at the General Motors plant and eventually was welcomed at the plant ran by Ford. From there, the rights spread across the nation. Thus, being such an important event in the history of the United States. This strike fought for the working rights that humans now acquire. The Flint Sit-Down Strike was a defining moment in history that changed the Automotive Industry for the better.

Works Cited

Rubenstein, Bruce A., and Lawrence E. Ziewacz. Michigan: a History of the Great Lakes State. Wiley, 2014.

9 thoughts on “Flint Sit-Down Strike Advocates for Working Class

  1. I am curious if there were any workers who refused to participate in the strike? Or were all of the workers on the same page. Did every single one agree this was the best way to bring change. It also seems that they would have lost some strikers after they started, once they realize how hard this strike would be. Perhaps they just all believed in each other so much they new they could do it, and bring the change they all so desperately needed.

    1. That question came to my mind as well. I’m sure there probably was. The strike did last 44 days. One would think that some of the workers gave up and just went home. This strike did turn violent.

    2. In the video clips, we could see wives/girlfriends and small children talking to strikers through the shop windows. That was another dynamic to the situation. It must have been very tough for every worker to leave their family to fend for themselves as they fought for improved working conditions.

      1. You have to think to about those wives and children the fear they had for the people in the strike. Would they come home safe? When they came home, would they have a job to support their family? The toil it took on the family while they were not making money for those 30 plus days during the depression was probably really hard too. The families all had to rely on each other for support. The wives had to be strong for the husbands, and not guilt them into quitting and go back to work as well.

  2. I really appreciated your reference to “the factory leaders that acted as tyrants had finally agreed to cooperate with the workers.” Although the Sit-Down Strike was at General Motors, your comment made me immediately think of Henry Ford. Even though General Motors and Chrysler accepted UAW representation eventually, Ford refused to recognize the UAW. Ford showed his thinking at the time with regards to resisting the union. “He still continued to release employees favoring unionization.” (Rubenstein, p. 243) Four years later, he finally agreed to determine whether or not his workers favored union representation. After finding out that 70% did, Ford met with UAW officials and signed a generous contract, signifying that he was now cooperating with the workers.

    1. Throughout reading last week and this week, I can not help but thing Ford had so many ideals that were almost “anti-American” compared to what was happening around him. He seemed like he had a lot of issues with racism and even with feeling superior to everyone else. So it surprised me that he was so willing to aid the governments war efforts in WWII.

      1. I agree with you in thinking that some of Ford’s ideas were “anti-American,” but it seems as though many people had some of those ideas. However, some felt more strongly than others about them. It’s very strange that these individuals would almost refuse to help those who are employed to them. Why not just take the time and resolve the problem instead of fighting or disregarding the issue that will not go away?

  3. Great job on your blog post. It is so inspiring to read the story of GM workers who stood up for what they believed in and actually got it. Imagine the trouble that could have been prevented if they would have just listened to their employees in the first place.

  4. This is a very well thought out blog and provides a good explanation. Like Haley said, if they would have just listened to their workers and implemented some of their needs and wants, this could have all been avoided.

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