General Motors workers occupy the Fisher #3 plant, which manufactured car bodies, in Flint, Michigan, as part of a massive series of sit-down strikes in 1937. (Autoworkers at plant's sister factory, Fisher #1, began the legendary strike.) The conclusion of the strikes resulted in GM's recognition of the United Auto Workers as a collective bargaining agent.

Photograph by Sheldon Dick, courtesy Library of Congress

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  • On February 11, 1937, workers at General Motors’ Fisher #1 plant in Flint, Michigan, ended a 44-day sit-down strike. In the terms of the agreement, the company recognized the United Auto Workers (UAW) as the collective bargaining unit for all GM’s UAW members. 
    Workers in Flint “sat down” on the job to protest low wages, no seniority rights, and retaliation for safety complaints. To force the men out of the factory, authorities turned off the heat and fired tear gas into the building. It didn’t work, and other GM factory workers began sit-down strikes of their own.
    Following “the strike heard ‘round the world”, UAW membership jumped from 30,000 to 500,000 and wages increased up to 300 percent. Today, February 11 is honored as “White Shirt Day” by UAW members—supporting the idea that blue collar workers are just as valuable as management.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    blue collar Adjective

    having to do with the working class, particularly those who wear specialized clothing to work—such as miners or mechanics.

    collective bargaining Noun process in which wages, hours, rules, and working conditions are negotiated by a group (usually a labor union) and an employer for all the employees the group represents.
    factory Noun

    one or more buildings used for the manufacture of a product.

    recognize Verb

    to identify or acknowledge.

    retaliation Noun

    reprisal, or an act taken in response to an injury or offense.

    sit-down strike Noun strike in which workers refuse to leave their place of employment until a settlement is reached.
    tear gas Noun

    aerosol gas that causes extreme irritation of the eyes, leading to tears and sometimes vomiting. Also called CS gas.

    wage Noun

    money paid to a person for providing goods or services.