On Dec. 30, 1936, General Motors autoworkers in Flint, Michigan, began a strike at the Fisher Body Plant No. 2. The United Auto Workers organized the strike because it wanted recognition as the only bargaining authority for GM factory employees. The UAW was founded the year before and wanted GM autoworkers to have job security and better working conditions.
The strike didn’t take long to become violent. Supporters of the employees were bringing food to the strikers, but when police tried to stop them, a riot ensued. That riot was eventually called the “Battle of Bulls Run.” Both police and strikers were injured during the rioting. As a result, Frank Murphy, the governor of Michigan, called out the National Guard. They surrounded the plant, but the order was never given to enter it. The strikers had a lot of support, in the general public and even in the White House. President Franklin Roosevelt helped with the negotiations in order to bring the strike to an end.
The auto manufacturer granted the UAW the bargaining rights they wanted and negotiations started on how the working conditions in the plant could be improved. The six-week strike officially ended when the president of GM signed the contract with the UAW. Shortly afterwards, a strike started at Chrysler. The UAW won out there, too. In 1941, the last holdout of the “Big Three” automakers in American signed with the UAW as well.
Today, there are more than 500,000 retired UAW members in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada. There are over 500,000 active members as well. The UAW is no longer limited to autoworkers; it is now known as the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America.
Private Sector Employees Have the Right to Assemble
The National Labor Relations Act gives private sector employees the right to assemble, organize and bargain with employers. A union may only be formed and certified if it meets the terms of the NLRA. A union that is lawfully elected and certified is the representative of its members when involved in negotiations with the employer. If employees do not have the rights guaranteed to them by the NLRA, then an employment lawyer can provide more information on how to proceed.
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