The Flint Sit-Down Strike Audio Presentation


On February ninth in the detroit (cadillac?) hotel, John L. Lewis was staying. Governor Murphy was staying down the hall. Either on the next floor or on the same floor. And Murphy had finally been prevailed upon, the pressure against murphy was extreme, was tremendous, it had to be.

He had, they had finally prevailed upon him to issue an evacuation order. AN order which would be given to the commander of the national guard to use his troops to clear the plants out.

And being the kind of man he was, Govenor Murphy marched down to the room where John L. Lewis was, in his suite, his aides knocked on the door, the Governor asked to see Mr. Lewis and John L. came to the door.

The Govenor had cluched in his hands the eviction order and he said "Mr. Lewis", I have reached a very unhappy decision, but I must up hold the law I must up hold the law and I have therefore prepared the eviction notice for the national guard to clear the plants and I'm asking you, one last time, will you have your men voluntarily leave the plant?

And uh, Lewis responded by saying, he was a great orator, a marvellous orator he was an inspiration just to listen to and a very imposing and threatening personal appearence too, big bushy eyebrows and a thundering voice which could be heard a half a block away complete command of the English language at all times. He said "Govenor Murphy, you're asking the men to leave the plant? They will be giving up all that they had ever hoped to have, ever hoped to be or ever hoped to win.

He said "Governor, you say you're doing this in the name of the law" um, this may be a bit in accurate, but in essence it is what he said, I've read it so many times and its inspired me really, it is one of the most dramatic thirty or forty second specches i have ever heard said

"You say you are doing this in the name of order, in the name of law and order?" Said "Governor Murphy, when your father was in prison by the English authorities for participating in the Irish rebellion. Did you think that was law and order? Did you get down on your knees and praise the lord for the purity and the sanctity of the law?" He says "and Governor Murphy, when your grandfather was hanged by the neck until he was dead by the british authorities for being an irish revolutionary, did you get out and give hosannas and praise the purity and sanctity of the law in that case no you did not.

But here in this case, governor murphy you do. You want my answer sir, I give it to you: Tomorrow morning I shall enter the gates at Chevrolet plant number four on chevrolet avenue, I shall go to the nearest window. I shall remove, I shall dispose of my outer arrainment, remove my shirt and bear my bosom and I stand before that open window, with my bare bosom as you order your militia men to fire, mine will be the first breast those bullets will strike.

And as my body falls to the ground you listen to the voice of your grandfather as he whispers in your ear "Frank, do you think this is the right thing to do?" Well, this was too much for the kind ocmpassionate governor murphy. He just turned on his heel and left.

He didn't issue the evacuation order. This was February ninth. February tenth come and went and February eleventh general motors capitulated. Gave in as recognizing all of the members they had signed up general motors would recognize the uaw as bargaining agent. The first agreement, February elevent was one typewritten page that was the extent of the first UAW GM agreement. One typewritten page.

It covers volumes now, but that was it and uh, I think that is the only thing inspired, after all this time, thats forty-two years ago.

I am still inspired by a man that could make such a dramatic plea as that. Now he was a real grandstander you know, John L. Lewis, real grandstander, a real ham. But he was an effective ham (it seemed to have worked this time) Oh it sure did, it sure did. A marvellous orator, you know John L. was not an educated man formally, he got his education through his wife.

A marvellous thing, so that came a-marching out February the eleventh, 1937, fisher body came down by chevrolet avenue they picked up the sit downers in chevrolet, they marched on down the street and picked up the sit downers form fisher number two and marched down town.

And a grand time was had by all. And the pot has been boiling all of these forty two years since then.

Show Transcript Speaker: Larry Jones. Interviewed by U-M Flint Labor History Project. Date of interview: 6-9-1978. Edited by Michael Van Dyke.

Copyright: ©2002 Michigan State University.