Sit Down to Stand Up


Freedom to work, or the right to work, is the choice to every worker on if they want to join a union. Crazy thought that this had to be established! The right to work was forged by those workers that took a stand by sitting down. The “sit-down” strike was a technique that came out of the rubber workers in Ohio. By the end of 1936 Flint was the perfect storm, workers in the auto plants were tired of the conditions and unfair practices. Collective bargaining was a way to have a strong enough voice to try and level the playing fields. The UAW emerged as a major voice, however there were others such as the Flint Alliance that did not see things the same way. The Flint Alliance was looking to get back to work, they did not want to sit down. The Flint workers sit down lasted until February 11th when GM the first of the Big 3 gave in and recognized the UAW as the sole bargaining agent. (Michigan, A History of the Great Lakes State)
The Flint workers went into the sit down thinking that they would peacefully force a solution and truly never believed it would take such a long time for GM to agree to a solution. On New Years Eve one worker journaled “Thinking of that party at my home this evening, I wonder if the basements is decorated for the occasion” as told in The Great Water (chapter 13). The workers later were surprised when the law showed up and then as the days passed more issues with violence. They were peacefully sitting down, and just wanted fair treatment.
The sit down paved the way for the UAW and the future relations that the workers have with the corporations. Sit Downs spread like wild fire, it was not just within the auto industry. Unionization was necessary step to ensure fair negotiation and treatment, standing together as one through the trials formed a bond that is still extremely strong today.

8 thoughts on “Sit Down to Stand Up

  1. The Flint-Sit-down strike really did lay the foundation for the (UAW) which stood for United Auto Workers. It was a long fought battle, between the workers and employees before workers were able to have any affiliation with unions. Employees of GM didn’t welcome Unions at all because they favored and supported the workers. Unions helped workers gain fair treatment and protected them. If i was a worker back then i feel like i would of participated in the strike, because it ultimately led to things changing in the work place.

  2. The Sit-down strike method probably went a long way toward gaining sympathy for the strikers. The violence that had been a big part of many of the previous strikes was not in evidence. The strike breaking techniques used by the owners on these sit-down strikers created an environment where the public sided with the workers. The Sit-down strike was genius strike in this respect. It also gained popularity along with the better media coverage that the newspaper and radio provided. Gone were the beatings by union busters that no one ever heard of.

  3. I agree that workers participating in the Flint sit-down strike had no idea that it would last as long as it did, and that it would turn violent. I admire their courage, and that of the families left at home while their loved ones were without food and power in the GM plant. The UAW became a strong voice for these workers in gaining their fair rights, but the union couldn’t have succeeded without the fortitude and sacrifice of the men and women striking in such tough conditions.

  4. The sit down strike was a turning point for
    Unions. Early on in the strike they were not treated right at all. As the strike continued family and friends would hand them food and cards and things through the windows to keep them entertained. I think this was one of the most interesting times in history. Good post!

  5. Extremely unfortunate that a peaceful demonstration had to turn violent. The workers just wanted to feel like they had a voice in the establishments that they work for and wanted to be treated with respect and wanted fair working conditions. Violence never solves anything concerning these issues, it only fuels more hatred between worker and employer.

  6. With a new and unique striking method, it was very interesting to read about how the workers at the GM plant peacefully got their message across. As the workers sat inside the factory so the company could not replace them, it is interesting to see how the New Deal led to this outcome. Do you believe that if president Roosevelt did not sing the New Deal into effect with the collective bargaining element, that the higher ups at GM would have listened to the union?

  7. The workers involved in the sit down strike stuck up for themselves and wanted better work conditions. The strike took some sour turns but overall it achieved cohesion between the companies and workers that took part in it. The changes to the workplace ultimately helped the workers and it was what they wanted.

  8. I think the best part about these strikes was the fact that the strikers simply didn’t work. They didn’t ransack and destroy things to achieve their goals. The fact that they did this made them seem like innocent men when the companys would counter them.

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