NATIONAL WHITE SHIRT DAY/WHITE T-SHIRT DAY
National White Shirt Day, also known as National White T-Shirt Day, commemorates the day a historic auto worker strike resolved on February 11, 1937.
Manufacturing provided a large part of our workforce in the early part of the 20th century. When the 1929 stock market crash triggered the Great Depression, auto manufacturers laid-off workers and cut costs. GM did as well, eliminating their more expensive models. They stripped down their remaining models and sped up production to grueling pace. As they hired workers back, they did so at lower pay and didn’t consider seniority.
In 1935 the Wagner Act allowed workers to organize and join labor unions legally. By 1936, conditions reached a dangerous and fierce pace. Works had organized before, standing in picket lines that put not only their jobs at risk but their lives, too.
Sit-ins, though, created an opportunity to shut down the plant entirely without any replacement workers crossing picket lines. On December 30, 1936, GM workers took up residence in the Flint, Michigan Body Plant Number 1, after a plan to walk out was derailed. Their sit-in lasted 44 days and brought production to a halt and impacted not just GM but the entire auto industry.
The strike helped The United Auto Workers (UAW) union become the sole bargaining agent for General Motors autoworkers. The observance is best known in Flint, Michigan, and other cities that have a GM auto plant.
HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalWhiteShirtDay
Learn more about the history of labor unions and how they’ve influenced change in working conditions. Read about manufacturing and skilled labor in the United States. Did you or someone you know someone who participated in a sit-in strike? Share their experience. Use #NationalWhiteShirtDay to post on social media.
NATIONAL WHITE SHIRT DAY HISTORY
Bert Christenson, a member of UAW Local 598, initiated National White Shirt/White T-shirt Day on February 11, 1948.
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