The One Where We Strike


Going on strike is as American as eating a hot dog at a baseball game. My grandfather went on strike against GM with the UAW in 2008 during mass layoffs, teachers are doing it now to get adequate teaching supplies for their students, and fast food employees are still striking today for better wages. We can thank the OG strikers of 1937 from Flint to allow us to do this. Without them, neither Michigan, nor the United States would know how to handle unions, labor laws, and the future strikes of workers wanting change.

Labor unions were seeing gains for days in  37 thanks to Roosevelt’s pro-union stance via the New Deal. FDR’s New Deal was a hodgepodge of programs set into action to help Americans back on their fight and heighten prosperity from sea to shining sea. This change prompted Americans to do more. Flint was one area that decided to do more and strike, a radical concept comping from Akron (Blackwell 247). From the New Deal and the results of the Flint Strikes of 1937 came right to work laws and freedom to work impact wages which have greatly helped workers, especially those in unions like autoworkers (Thick 197-99). From all of  this unions became legitimized like the UAW and new unions started popping up for miners, police officers, and firefighters (Thick 198).

The sit-ins started peaceful, non-violent ideas floated in the heads of “men who don’t start trouble when they’ve been preached to” (Thick 182). This mindset was prompted by “our good Governor insisting there will be no violence” while the National Guards took over streets to make sure the controlled burn that was the auto-strike did not turn violent (Thick 191). Murphy pledged to peace and to stop any unnecessary violence. The common autoworker did not face the stress that O’Rourke went through as far as the legal issues went. Strikers dealt with violence and unsafe conditions while O’Rourke faced the dangers of board meetings. His stress levels, along with other factors caused him to “have lost 26 pounds” (Thick 192). This strike took a tole on the autoworkers along with other Flint employees trying to come to a peaceful yet productive resolve. I would have felt scared, personally, trying to protest against my boss for better wages and to stop mass lay offs, but these workers did what they felt was right and revolutionized how we deal with work place conflict forever and instantly legitimizing the UAW.

Today, men and women of all jobs have union options, my grandfather belongs to the UAW, both my parents belong to teaching unions, and one day I will too. Workers got to talk during lunch and got safer working conditions and better wages. These small changes were the dominoes in a long line of union changes. Wages now go up and aren’t frozen and jobs become safer and safer. All of this today is because of what those Flint workers did. They didn’t just change the game for themselves and future workmen, but they also changed the rapport between employers and employees. Employers are now in charge of the safety of their employees, they have to pay proper wages and give proper training, all of this was new (Thick 197). In 37′ if you were injured or weren’t given proper training, well that was on you, but now employers are liable. There is more respect, more understanding, and better understanding now (Blackwell 243-44).

Our present and future clash with our past especially when it comes to jobs. The revolution of striking for better working conditions is nothing new for us to think about but back in 37′ it was radical, but it worked and evoked change. Radical leaders convinced our Governor that mass industry could and should do better by their employees. Now we can talk on lunch breaks and get capped hours with overtime pay and don’t have to worry about unions because that was already worked out in the twentieth century. Our right to work in the state of Michigan has come from this and so many other labor laws. “Two wars we’ve been through and this last one we knew what we were fighting for” (Thick 193). Their battle changed their own worlds and thus changed the future of laborers.

 

Thick, Matthew R. The Great Water. Lansing, Mi.: Michigan State University Press, 2018.

Blackwell, Wiley. Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State. Mi.: University of Michigan-Flint, 2014.

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “The One Where We Strike

  1. I do agree with you on protesting against your boss being a risky situation, however, these men did have a really great group to work with and kept each other sane and strong in their times of lows. They took care of each other when they were sick and injured and kept with the same mindset of their ultimate goal. Towards the end of O’Rourke’s diary, they had one of their own men delivering letters to and from their families. I really think they all did a great job of working with each other because had they not, it would have made their time striking even harder on themselves.

  2. Your opening statement was a really good attention getter. Going on strike is a very bold move. I couldn’t imagine whether or not you think things are going your way or not. These people made a good decision to go on strike.

  3. Sometimes even though it is scary and uncertain of the outcome, you just have to stand up for yourself and do what you feel is right for yourself and your family. Strikes work because it gives the “little man” power in a situation they feel powerless in. Companies do not want to lose money by lost production. The men at this time fought together to protect their rights as human beings and to gain what they thought they deserved through their blood sweat and tears in the shops.

  4. Olivia,

    The strikes did begin with the thought that they would be non violent, but this didn’t last. Isn’t it crazy to think that all these people still have to go on strike all these years later? Luckily these individuals really helped us get where we are today. I really like the quote you used at the end.

    Great post,
    Monica

  5. I loved your opener! I thought the relations to the hot dog and strikes were funny. Strikes are always risky. More people you have striking along with you, the better. Thankfully, the strikers have helped mold us to what we are today and that’s just incredible.

  6. I think it’s really important and admirable for those people to have stood up for themselves and go against their boss to demand humane working conditions. I would be too scared to rise up against my boss, even with a group of people. But because these workers did, they not only changed the workforce for themselves but for all future generations. We have them to thank for the fair and safe working conditions we have today.

  7. Tying in your family history with the unions was helpful for the direction of the story, relating it to many of us and our family’s history. As we consider the present and future of unionization perhaps radicals will once again challenge what we view as today’s labor schedule of overtime, the 40 hour week, and hour day.

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