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May, 2006

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Spirit of '37: Workers stand up for rights by sitting down

By a Flint, Michigan People's Tribune Correspondent

On Friday, March 30th, some of the workers at Flint's Delphi East Plant faced a double whammy. Delphi's hired gun Steve Miller went to Bankruptcy Court to wipe out UAW labor agreements. It was also the final day for the Spark Plugs area after 98 years of production, and for the remaining workers. Emotions ran high and low as workers pushed their toolboxes out, said their teary goodbyes to their fellow workers, and pondered what the future would hold for themselves and their families. They were anxious and trying to anticipate which areas of the plant they would be farmed out to now that spark plug production had ended. Just minutes before they punched out to go home, workers were shocked when the Supervisor informed them that they would be laid off.

Could management think any less of the workers than to pink slip them that day, and without regard to seniority and violations of other contract provisions? This was the last straw. About 40 workers strong decided to ignore the layoff notice and show up to work anyway -- first thing the following Monday morning.

With a nod to the Great Sit Down Strike of 1937, the workers gathered in the Satillite areas of their now closed department, refusing to leave. Management sent supervisors and Labor Relations personnel to persuade them to leave. It didn't work. Plant Security was sent to intimidate the workers into leaving. It didn't work. Management called the cops, but they never showed up. It didn't work. The local union officers came on the floor to support the Sit In. Finally, an International Representative from Detroit came in to settle the dispute, and assisted the workers in restoring seniority rights and the human rights of the workers.


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