Although a handful of sit-down strikers are still living, the children and grandchildren of those General Motors workers are more often than not the only ones left to share passed-down accounts of what happened 75 years ago.
Along with other union members and local elected officials, they will share stories and talk about what has been gained and lost since the end of the historic 44-day strike that is marked today on White Shirt Day.
"The National Guard was all equipped. We would stand right at the top of Chevrolet Avenue (and see what was happening)," said Harrison, 84, of Fenton Township. "At 9 years old, you're just soaking it all in."
The strike became such a consuming part of life in Flint that even family members who were not alive at the time have heard the stories passed down from family members who remember both the bloodshed and the solidarity -- the result of their struggle for better wages and working conditions.
Harriet Moulder of Allegan County said she was never close to her great grandmother, the late Rebecca Goodard of Clio, but knew the "fearsome lady," a "tough old bird" who was active in the union movement and the Sit-Down Strike.
"I can't tell you much about her.. I knew her as a child when she was bed-ridden," Moulder said of Goddard. "My grandfather told me the wives and families of the strikers had a tent city where they cooked and carried food to the men."
On Feb. 5, 1937, The Flint Journal wrote a short story about Goddard, then 72-years-old, visiting the picket line at Fisher Body No. 1 in the midst of mass demonstrations and protests.
"I just came down from Clio to show some of my neighbors," she said in the story. "There are lots of sit-down grouches up there. You don't know what sit-down grouches are? Why they're people who don't believe in the union ...
"I was in the strike up at Au Sable 52 years ago," Goddard said at the time. "There was a strike for you. The loggers struck. They were working 12 hours a day and wanted an 11-hour day. Well. they sent the militia up to Au Sable. Say, those loggers ran the militia right out of town. They could fight, those loggers.
"We'll win this strike too."
Another child of a sit-down striker -- Pete Christensen -- plans to be on hand today for today's celebration, honoring his late father, Burt.
"I don't think the fight that my dad helped start is over," Christensen said. "There's a big war on workers and workers' rights now."
Christensen said workers are losing rights that strikers like his father won.
"I feel like we're back where we started from," he said.
Moulder said she knew from the time she was small that she had been born into a union family -- even before hearing stories of the great grandmother's support of the sit-down strikers.
"I was a building rep and my older brother was a shop steward," Moulder said. "All my uncles and cousins had something to do with the shop ... We have very strong beliefs in what the union has done for the working man ..."You couldn't drive anything but a GM car to a family reunion."
Harrison's father, Jack, a GM foreman at Fisher Body No. 2, wasn't a sit-down striker because he was a manager on the body line.
But Vince Harrison said his father felt the plight of the strikers and sympathized more with workers than he did the company.
"It really disturbed him (how hourly workers were treated). He said, 'It isn't fair. Something has to be done," he said. "His sympathies were totally with them."
Sympathies aside, workers "tossed guys right out of there" who were working as foremen and inspectors, Harrison said.
"My Dad happened to be an inspector on that line (where the strike started)," he said. "He was right there."
Link to original article: M Live