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As the owner of a few shares of the General Motors Corporation I became somewhat alarmed when I learned that the workers were sitting down in my plants at Flint, Fisher Body No. 1 and Fisher Body No. 2, preventing the company from finishing and shipping cars and threatening to Interrupt the orderly flow of dividends. Accordingly I took Sunday for a visit of investigation. Arriving at Flint I went to Fisher 2, and on introducing myself as their employer was cordially received by some 400 men occupying the plant. I must admit that I was fortunate in having as my companion Adolf Germer, who is on the board of strategy directing the strike.

My first anxiety was for the condition of my property, and I was relieved to find it well cared for. Springs and cushions were being used for beds, it is true, sometimes laid side by side as in a dormitory, sometimes isolated in cubicles between bales of goods. I was glad to see certain marks of domesticity-a clothes tree, an alarm clock, a whisk broom. The boys had made themselves pretty comfortable. I asked who was responsible for cleanliness, order, and protection of property, and learned that the government was what might be described, except for its unfortunate connotation, as a soviet. Mass assemblies were called at frequent intervals at which everything of importance was discussed. Court was held every morning. I asked what crimes were committed and was told that bringing in liquor and circulating m o r s were the usual offenses. Those found guilty of the charges against them were put out.

After a hearty Sunday dinner of roast chicken and ice cream, I noticed several round holes in the great glass windows, and inspecting more closely some of the fetus-like bodies of cars on the tracks, awaiting their delayed birth, I saw similar holes in the glass and dents in the metal sides. I thought these indicated wanton violence against my property, and asked how it occurred. Gun fire by the police, was the answer. I knew that there had been fighting on the Monday before in the street outside, but these disasters were on the second floor. It was obvious that there had been firing from a distance into the plant, endangering the lives of my employees, whom I was beginning to like though they were on strike, and damaging my property. Accordingly I asked for particulars, and as I have seen no clear account of the affair in any newspaper, despite the columns of newsprint that have been given to the strike, I will set down the facts as they were related to me by at least eight participants and eyewitnesses.

The sitdown strike involving 1,500 to 2,000 workers started at Fisher 1, when it appeared that the management was loading dies and special machinery into box cars to be shifted to other cities. Our company is fortunate in having factories scattered over the country; so that by transferring equipment a strike in Flint, Michigan, can be broken by workers in Atlanta, Georgia. Incidentally, that is why the workers demand the Industrial form of organization and insist on dealing with General Motors as a whole instead of with the component companies.

The sitdown strike spread to Fisher Body 2, where from 400 to 600 men were involved. Relations were harmonious with the company police, who agreed to let the outer door stand open for food to be brought in. Attempts were made from time to time to shut off heat, light, and water, but workers with a mechanical turn of mind turned them on again.

On Monday afternoon the city police under Chief James Wills undertook to block both ends of the street in front of Fisher 2, to prevent food from being brought in. Later the police made an attack in force with tear gas and gun fire, to enter the plant. The strikers from inside countered the tear gas with streams of water, and the bullets with heavy hinges and other missiles. Some twenty-eight persons were injured, fourteen so seriously as to be taken to the hospital, which, I was told, had received warning beforehand to have an emergency ward ready. The defeat of the forces of law and order is referred to as Bulls' Run. The company police of Fisher 2 apparently took no part in the battle, and were found next morning in a ladies' rest room, where they had stood all night at attention, lacking room to sit down. They were released without acrimony by the workers in the factory.

Show Transcript Speaker: Robert Morss Lovett. Interviewed by U-M Flint Labor History Project. Date of interview: 1-30-1937. Edited by Michael Van Dyke.

Copyright: ©2002 Michigan State University.