January 11 1937 – Striking United Automobile Worker members shot by police

The United Automobile Workers was founded in May 1935 to focus on improving working conditions in automaker facilities. They gained a strong following and later success in organizing a sit-down strike that started on December 30, 1936 at the GM Fisher Body Plant No. 2 in Flint, Michigan. On this day in 1937 violence erupted at the strike site as police tried to prevent the strikers from receiving a food delivery from local supporters. 

National Guard with machine gun overlooking Chevrolet factories number nine and number four. Flint, Michigan. By Sheldon Dick for the Farm Security Administration – Office of War information

Dubbed the “Battle of the Running Bulls” by the auto workers, bulls a reference to the police force, both the strikers and police reported injuries. As many as 14 auto workers were hurt by gunfire, but no fatalities were recorded. The riot resulted in the National Guard being called in, but they never advanced on the buildings. The strike lasted for more than a month and ended with GM agreeing to give the UAW bargaining rights. and to begin negotiations related to improving job conditions for auto workers. This strike was followed up by a Chrysler strike, but Ford held out on signing a contract with the UAW until 1941.

The cover photo was taken by a Flint Journal photographer on Jan.11, 1937, while the air was filled with tear gas and police and workers battled at General Motors’ Fisher Body No. 2. It shows a group of rioting sit-down strikers in front of the entrance to the worker-occupied plant on Chevrolet Avenue in Flint.

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