(02/11/13) - Monday marks the 76th Anniversary of Flint's Sitdown Strike.
Those who fought for workers rights and solidarity were recognized at the annual 'White Shirt Day' celebration.
The United Auto Workers honors their legacy every year. This year, the celebration for Flint's Sitdown Strikers was even more special when they were given keys to the city.
Current members and retirees say the union can't forget where they came from.
"I'm proud to be part of this organization. There's so much history that's involved and a lot of people are not aware of what the unions were all about, the fighting that they had to do and everything they have done for us," said UAW Retiree Benny Talley.
White Shirt Day gives the UAW an opportunity to reflect on how far they've come and where the organization will go in the future.
Hundreds packed Local 659 Monday to pay tribute to the Sitdown Strike. From local dignitaries, to retirees and current membership.
The 44-day strike in the winter of 1936 and 1937 resulted in the UAW becoming the bargaining agent in negotiations with General Motors.
The Sitdown Strikers fought for a fair wage and other workers rights.
Bean soup and apples were served to those in attendance - that was the food that nourished the Sitdowners during the strike.
International President Bob King was the keynote speaker at Monday's observance.
King shared his vision for the UAW with the hundreds of people who packed local 659 Monday. He told the membership to keep fighting on and to remember those who began that fight back in the 1930s.
"It is an honor for us to be with those forerunners in the UAW who had the courage to change the world," he said.
King reminded his union faithful Monday what White Shirt Day is all about.
"There's no greater inspiration in the labor movement than the workers who took on the most powerful corporation in the world," he said.
He hopes the courage and determination displayed in the 1930s still inspires the rank and file today, despite Right to Work legislation signed into law late last year.
"We have workers all over our plants who believe in working together, and Right to Work is a decisive issue, it says some workers will get the benefits of union representation without paying their fair share. We want a Michigan where everyone prospers, not just the Governor and few of his rich buddies," he said.
King also addressed General Motors' decision to close Flint's Delphi East plant in November.
"We're not happy with that decision. We are still awaiting to get additional product and investment in this community. We will continue to do as we have been, fighting to bring more jobs back to the United States. Overall, we have been successful, that's the power of collective bargaining," he said.
While only a few Sitdowners remain today, their legacy of fighting for workers rights and a fair wage will always be the backbone of organized labor.
"We don't want workers selling themselves short," King said. "The only way democracy works is if the working class has a voice in that democracy and that's through unions and workers running for political office."
"This is where it all started. This is where we came together as group, stuck together and made things in happen. It's very important to not lose touch with this," said Mike Green, of the UAW. "This is where we came from and where we need to get back to. The things that are happening to us in this state, these things are very important how it first started, you need to go back, you need to remember what people gave up for us, for what we have and to keep what we have."
Also part of Monday's celebration, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling presented the Sitdowners with keys to the city.
ABC12 Main Station