Midnight in Vehicle City: General Motors, Flint, and the Strike That Created the Middle Class

Beacon. Feb. 2021. 240p. ISBN 9780807039670. $27.95. POL SCI
The sit-down strike that swept through General Motors plants in Flint, MI, in 1936 was one of the landmark events in the American labor movement. Journalist McClelland provides a step-by-step account of this strike and the negotiations that ultimately led to the establishment of collective bargaining rights for the United Auto Workers. Drawing from accounts of conditions in the plants before and during the strike, McClelland provides vivid depictions of the experiences of workers contrasted with a detailed look at the negotiations between the union, the company executives, and state and federal government officials. While McClelland briefly discusses labor struggles in other industries, the focus here is kept tightly on the auto industry and the Flint strike. Some of the most effective parts of the book are the portraits of key figures in the strike, including Michigan Governor Frank Murphy; Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins; and Genora Johnson, who organized the wives of striking workers.
VERDICT McClelland’s engaging, readable account is a solid introduction to the rise of the labor movement in the 1930s. Recommend for readers interested in labor history and especially for those looking for a reminder of the power that workers can have when they negotiate collectively.
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