National White Shirt day celebrates 82 years since the historic strike was ended

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FLINT (WJRT) - (2/11/2019) - One of the most important days in labor history happened 82 years ago Monday -- the end of the famous Sitdown Strike in Flint.

While none of the Sitdowners from the 44-day strike that ended in 1937 are alive today, the community still honors the significance of that historic day.

The sounds of Ralph Chaplin's "Solidarity Forever" rang out in UAW Local 659 Monday, along with servings of bean soup, bread and apples. That was a meal made popular by wives and members of the Women’s Emergency Brigade, who slipped the food to strikers through the windows.

"I was hired back in 1950, so it was only 13 years after the Sitdown and they let you know management didn't give out anything. You gotta earn it," said Stan Marshall, a former vice president of the UAW.

While White Shirt Day wasn't officially started until 1948 by Bert Christenson, Marshall said the color white holds a significant message to auto workers.

"For one day, we were just as good as management and management wore white shirts and this is what it was about, tell the people, 'Look we are just as good as they are,'” said Marshall. “We might not have that job that pays as much but we are just as good as they are."

Gerald Kariem, regional director of UAW Region 1D, believes the Sitdowners are still affecting Flint today.

"A lot of the spirit here in the city of Flint, I believe, comes from the strength of the Sitdown workers,” said Kariem. “It's just part of that DNA that we're strong here and we continue to be strong."

Local political leaders like Sen. Gary Peters and Congressman Dan Kildee both joined members of the UAW and community at the event.

"I think it's good that we stop once a year, remind ourselves the importance of this because some of those struggles that those workers sat down in the factories for, some of those struggles are still continuing today," said Kildee.

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