Labor Day ceremony held at Sitdown Memorial - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Labor Day ceremony held at Sitdown Memorial

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FLINT (WJRT) -

(09/03/12) - It has become tradition to recognize Labor Day in Flint with a ceremony at the Sitdown Memorial.

For those involved in the labor movement, this is Ground Zero.

The annual event focuses on the sacrifices the strikers made when the UAW was in its infancy.

Current union members are amazed at the courage it took the challenge GM.

"Although it wasn't the first strike in the country, it wasn't the first sitdown strike. You'll hear people argue that and I'll tell them 'I agree with you.' But there's only one that took General Motors on and got General Motors to agree that we would be the sole bargaining unit and that happened right here in Flint, Michigan.," said UAW Region 1-C Assistant Dir. Steve Dawes.

In 2012, we have the ability to look back and know the strike would lead to better working conditions and fair wages. But at the time, things were far from certain.

"We did not know. They did not know how it would end. They just simply knew that the conditions in place were intolerable and could no longer be sustained," said Dan Kildee, (D) Congressional Candidate.

There are only a handful of Sitdown Strikers left. Richard Wiecorec, an original Sitdown Striker, didn't realize it at the time, but he was becoming a significant part of labor history.

"No, I wasn't scared," Wiecorec said. "I enjoyed it. As a young man, I enjoyed it. They talked about throwing us out. I was ready."

"The union meant the end of slavery in the shops and that's what my dad said too. Somebody asked why did you have the courage to do that? I got tired of being a slave," said Geraldine Blankenship of the Women's Brigade.

Last week, Olin Ham, one of the original sitdowners, passed away at the age of 95.

For those involved in the labor movement, his name will live on.

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