Feb. 11, 1937, is one of the most glorious days in the storied history of American labor, the day the famous UAW sit-down strike in Flint was settled in a victory for the workers. General Motors recognized the UAW as the bargaining agent for all the union members in skilled and production positions in its plants, and industrial unionism was on the map.
It would lead to broad-based collective bargaining across a vast and successful swath of the American economy, and to the establishment of the middle class. The idea that the average working person could and should be able to afford a decent life for his or her family became something that seemed normal. Nothing fancy in many cases, but a chicken in every pot.
Eleven years later, on Feb. 11, 1948, in the midst of a post-war boom fueling optimism and a sense that even more was possible, UAW Local 598 in Flint began a tradition that spread across the UAW: "White Shirt Day."