Midnight in Vehicle City: General Motors, Flint, and the Strike That Created the Middle Class

Edward McClelland. Beacon, $27.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8070-3967-0
Journalist McClelland (Folktales and Legends of the Middle West) delivers a detailed account of the 1936–1937 General Motors strike in Flint, Mich. During the Great Depression, General Motors cut wages, slashed jobs, and sped up the pace of work. In 1936, the newly-formed United Auto Workers of America labor union sent organizers to Flint, where a membership drive and temporary work stoppages to protest unjust firings culminated in a sit-down strike at the Fisher One auto body plant. The strike soon spread to other plants, and tempers ran so high that the National Guard was dispatched to keep the peace between strikers and Flint police. The governor of Michigan and President Franklin Roosevelt got involved, and GM and the UAWA eventually came to terms over improved working conditions, amnesty for strikers, and a collective bargaining agreement. McClelland makes excellent use of primary sources to spotlight local organizations including the Women’s Emergency Brigade, which evolved over the course of the strike from “a homemakers’ sodality to a quasi-military force,” but underdevelops his claims about the strike’s broader impact. Still, students of labor history will relish this enthusiastic chronicle of a victory for ordinary workers. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 10/16/2020
Release date: 02/02/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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