In what has become an event of near mythical proportions in U.S. labor lore, members of the fledg-ling United Auto Workers union (only about 1,000 of the 47,000 workers) at GM's Fisher Body Plant One in Flint, MI, commenced a sit-down strike on Dec. 29, 1936. Although the takeover was a catalyst for other plant seizures that eventually led to UAW recognition by GM President William S. Knudsen, it was not the first. Earlier in December, workers at Fisher Body plants in Atlanta, GA, and Kansas City, MO, walked out, and it was GM's response to a Dec. 21 request for talks to settle those strikes that set the stage for the Flint confrontation. To avoid having to bargain a national contract, Knudsen demanded separate talks for the Georgia and Missouri plants.

When UAW head Homer S. Martin accepted Knudsen's terms, outraged workers at the Fisher Body plant in Cleveland, OH, walked out. After GM began removing tooling from the Flint No.1 plant on Dec. 29, following a demand for contract talks, workers seized control there. In less than a month spreading strikes brought GM to a virtual standstill. On Feb. 1, 1937, under pressure from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, GM finally agreed to recognize the UAW.