The automobile industry grew rapidly until the 1930s, when it suffered severely during the economic hard times of the Great Depression. Because Michigan’s economy was so dependent on the industry, the state was hit hard, experiencing unemployment rates far above the national average. Hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs.
The hardships of the Great Depression helped to end the Republican Party’s long domination of Michigan politics. In 1932 Michigan residents gave the state’s electoral votes to Democratic presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt and elected Democrats to most state offices. Roosevelt’s programs to combat the depression, known as the New Deal, provided work for more than 500,000 Michigan residents.
The United Automobile Workers of America (UAW) was formed in 1935, the same year Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act guaranteeing workers the right to organize unions. Workers staged a series of sit-down strikes in automobile plants seeking recognition of the union by the major manufacturers. In December 1936 workers at a General Motors plant in Flint locked themselves in the factory when the company refused to recognize the union and allow collective bargaining. Democratic Governor Frank Murphy mediated the dispute, refusing to call out troops to break the strike. In February 1937 General Motors recognized the UAW as the collective bargaining agent for the workers.
Other major auto companies followed suit except for Ford, which was found guilty of repeated violations of the national labor-relations law. Ford finally recognized the union in 1941 after a strike at its main plant. The UAW’s success in becoming the representative of most auto workers was one of the most significant labor actions of the century, affecting thousands of workers in Detroit and other cities. "Michigan" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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