Before midnight, I want to acknowledge an important moment in history – 78 years ago today: the end of the Flint Sit Down Strike at General Motors. It happened in Flint, Michigan, but there’s something I heard in a video with aging participants that got me thinking about my own governor, Chris Christie, in a way I never have before.
First the teaser – honoring the end of the strike with White Shirt Day (today). White shirts – like management wore. Because before, only management dictated how long and under what conditions they worked. But after, they workers had a say, and they had the power to require management to listen. The teaser:
But it’s the second video about the strike that I want to talk to you about:
Now listen to the 1930s news coverage and witness interviews. The long winter, the pressure put on the strikers to give up, the violence done to them. Here’s where it gets interesting. Flint was a company town, and so GM pressured the police to tear gas the strikers to get the out of the plant. When the National Guard was called in, some of the strikers and their wives and children were afraid they’d shoot and kill the strikers.
But that’s not what happened. Governor Frank Murphy sent the Guard in to protect the workers against the violence and intimidation of General Motors:
We have a governor who has coddled and protected our state’s already wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. He has forked over a record amount of corporate welfare, without securing or preserving jobs. He presides over a state with growing income inequality, and increasing child poverty – and guiltlessly jets around in private planes to luxury hotels. He has vilified working people, and tried to humiliate them when they dare challenge him. He shows scorn and disrespect particularly of workers represented by organized labor.
What a difference between these two governors. Frank Murphy was barely in office a month when he took action to protect the workers. Their win, and how it drove the power of collective bargaining, helped create the middle-class whose stability is so threatened today.
Frank Murphy, a Democrat, went on to become the Attorney General of the United States, and then an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Chris Christie? It remains to be seen whether his services will be welcome in the federal government.