On this day, December 30th, in 1936 — 75 years ago today — hundreds of workers at the General Motors factories in Flint, Michigan, took over the facilities and occupied them for 44 days. My uncle was one of them.
The workers couldn’t take the abuse from the corporation any longer. Their working conditions, the slave wages, no vacation, no health care, no overtime — it was do as you’re told or get tossed onto the curb.
So on the day before New Year’s Eve, emboldened by the recent re-election of Franklin Roosevelt, they sat down on the job and refused to leave.
They began their Occupation in the dead of winter. GM cut off the heat and water to the buildings. The police tried to raid the factories several times, to no avail. Even the National Guard was called in.
But the workers held their ground, and after 44 days, the corporation gave in and recognized the UAW as the representative of the workers. It was a monumental historical moment as no other major company had ever been brought to its knees by their employees. Workers were given a raise to a dollar an hour — and successful strikes and occupations spread like wildfire across the country. Finally, the working class would be able to do things like own their own homes, send their children to college, have time off and see a doctor without having to worry about paying. In Flint, Michigan, on this day in 1936, the middle class was born.
But 75 years later, the owners and elites have regained all power and control. I can think of no better way for us to honor the original Occupiers than by all of us participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement in whatever form that takes in each of our towns. We need direct action all winter long if we are to prevail. You can start your own Occupy group in your neighborhood or school or with just your friends. Speak out against economic injustice at every chance you get. Stop the bank from evicting the family down the block. Move your checking and credit card to a community bank or credit union. Place a sign in your yard — and get your neighbors to do it also — that says, “WE ARE THE 99%.” (You can download signs here and here.)
Do something, anything, but don’t remain silent. Not now. This is the moment. It won’t come again.
75 years ago today, in Flint, Michigan, the people said they’d had enough and occupied the factories until they won. What is stopping us now? The rich have one plan: bleed everyone dry. Can anyone, in good conscience, be a bystander to this?
My uncle wasn’t, and because of what he and others did, I got to grow up without having to worry about a roof over my heads or medical bills or a decent life. And all that was provided by my dad who built spark plugs on a GM assembly line.
Let’s each of us double our efforts to raise a ruckus, Occupy Everywhere, and get creative as we throw a major nonviolent wrench into this system of Greed. Let’s make the politicians running for office in 2012 quake in their boots if they refuse to tax the rich, regulate Wall Street and do whatever we the people tell them to do.