United Auto Workers

Fighting for a Voice for All

First Sit-Downs

The first sit-down strike as the United Automobile Workers of America occurred November 17 1936 in South Bend, Indiana at Bendix Products Corporation where UAW members, both men and women endured a lack of heat in the plant for a number of day. However, unionizers kept their spirits up by bundling up, dancing and playing bridge. After eight days, this strike ended on November 25 after all UAW members agreed to go back to work in exchange for the union to be recognized by the Bendix corporation as a bargaining agent of the workers.

During the Kelsey-Hayes strike of in December of 1936 UAW showed that unemployed rights are essential human rights. Unemployed workers joined UAW members in the picket lines, as they knew this was a struggle that they knew they would one day have to face upon becoming employed. This helped build support and consciousness of the UAW. Moreover, this strike allowed President Martin to order a collective bargaining conference with General Motors. The strike ended after four days on December 23, 1936.

On December 31st, president of the UAW Homer Martin met with General Motors for some negotiations. William Knudsen of GM then insisted that workers take up these issues instead with the plant managers. However, seeing the increased number and power of sit-down strikes, Knudsen would only refer to UAW strikers as “trespassers”. Nonetheless sit-down strikes organized by the UAW expanded to Flint, Michigan. [6]

Bendix auto workers making music to keep up morale during the sit-down. (http://www.reuther.wayne.edu/node/5636)


See the Bendix sit-down in action here. [7]