A sit-down strike is a form of protest against company management in which workers occupy their place of employment and refuse to work or allow others to work until disagreements have been settled. The first sit-down strike in the United States occurred in 1906 at the General Electric Works in Schenectady, New York, to protest the firing of trade union members. A wave of sit-down strikes occurred in 1936 and 1937, beginning with protests at three rubber plants in Akron, Ohio, where workers attempted to force their employer to recognize the United Rubber Workers as their legitimate bargaining agent. The most significant of these strikes was the Flint Sit-Down Strike, which occurred in January and February 1937 and was organized by the United Auto Workers (UAW) in the General Motors (GM) company town of Flint, Michigan. Strikers took over the factories where GM kept the dies (devices for cutting out prefabricated designs of metal) for all of its 1937 car models. Crippled, GM's output fell from 50,000 cars in December to 125 in February, when management conceded to union demands. After the strike UAW membership increased from 98,000 in February 1937 to 400,000 by the summer of that year.
Although sit-down strikes are intended to be nonviolent, this is rarely the case. For example, in Flint, workers turned hoses on the police and were subjected to tear gas, and management attempted to break most of the sit-down strikes that followed with force. By late 1937 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a government agency established in 1934 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (in office 1933–45) to oversee labor practices, outlawed sit-down strikes, and several court decisions upheld the NLRB's ruling. Despite this sit-down strikes have remained an effective means of protest and were commonly used during the civil rights movement (1954–68).
Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3611000821