Many of you have only read about the depression of the ’30s and how it affected the working class. It was the era of “the assembly line.”

In 1936, General Motors was the largest privately owned manufacturing company in the world. GM operated 69 auto plants in 35 cities throughout the United States. They also produced auto parts, refrigeration equipment, household appliances, airplanes, train engines, and power plants. GM’s stockholders received over $200 million in dividend payments in 1936 and employed 172,000 hourly employees with an average of seventy-six cents an hour. The company was known to be an outrageous foe of any attempts to form labor unions.

On December 30, 1936, about 50 UAW assembly-line workers, angry over yet another attempt by GM to weaken their union, sat down on the job and refused to work at GM’s Fisher Body Plant in Flint, Michigan, causing the entire assembly line to collapse. Sit-down strikes soon ensued throughout other GM plants that shut down the world’s largest automobile factories.

Blood was spilled and the war for higher wages was on. Bottles, stones and two-pound car door hinges flew through the air at policemen, followed by water from fire hoses manned by strikers on the roof of the plant. The police fell back, regrouped and made another attempt, eventually firing pistols into the picketers wounding more than a dozen people. There was a stalemate.

Finally, President Roosevelt intervened, encouraging a compromise and the union organizers were permitted to continue their work without interference from the management. It was the opening salvo for thousands of workers to unionize. Henry Ford’s statement that “We’ll never recognize the United Auto Workers Union or any other union” fell on deaf ears ever after.

Woolworth’s girls also took to sitting down on the job and soon it became obvious that all of America’s labor force wanted a piece of the pie.

How does that have any meaning today, you ask? For the past year, the country’s laboring forces have been living a great deal on the dole, enjoying a life. They have had a chance to think and have decided they now want a bigger piece of the pie. Many millions have not gone back to work, which has slowed our economy, accounting for all the ships offshore waiting from labor to unload them and truck drivers transporting goods to their destinations. What they are asking for now, and it has been long sought after, is profit-sharing. Mega companies who take in billions of dollars annually have fought against profit-sharing for years. This is just the latest attempt and probably the most likely to have some success.

During the thirties, the movies were filled with the life of high society and the life-styles that existed for the haves. The “have nots” struck to get a share of that. Now they want a big slice of the pie. And thus it goes.

Just sayin. [email protected]

Rusty Strait | Senior Reporter

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