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Michigan labor history remembered as right-to-work law ushered in

March 25, 2013

Mike Smith, UAW archivist at Wayne State University's Walter P. Reuther Library, commented in a story about the 1936 sitdown strike at General Motors - in light of the passage of right-to-work in Michigan. Will history repeat itself in a right-to-work Michigan? "I don't know if we are destined to repeat history. The only thing that history does tell you is that things change," said Smith. He said the sitdown strike of 1936 was a well-planned reaction to an increase in the speed of an assembly line by a post-depression General Motors - when older workers were unprotected. Smith believes that right-to-work laws will push today's unions to prove themselves. "I think the unions can make a strong case … especially where we see certain instances where companies do abuse workers."