Today's History Lesson: Why "Ready to Die" Does Not Just Refer to Biggie Smalls
Sometimes we forget how much people sacrificed to secure the freedoms we have in a society where so many are under duress. When called, we may have to rise the occasion they way our forebears did. Here is a little know example from the Flint Sit-Down strikes which paved the way for collective bargaining rights in the nation's two largest companies, General Motors and US. Steel. The workers in Flint, organized by the fledgling United Auto Workers Union, had occupied General Motors plans for nearly five weeks, fighting off company spies, local police, a citizens group called "The Flint Alliance," and surviving two court injunctions and the deployment of the Michigan National Guard sent by the newly elected Democratic Governor Frank Murphy. Finally, Murphy, determined the break the strike, decided to used the National Guard to remove the strikers form their buildings, using all necessary force including rifles and machine guns. The leaders of the strike asked the workers in the buildings what they wanted to do, stay or leave. In response, half of the occupying workers signed "Ready to Die" agreements indicating they would resist the National Guard's attempt to evict them even if it meant losing their lives. The UAW conveyed this information to the Governor, and President Roosevelt, and Governor Murphy decided to back off, giving negotiations another chance. Within the next week, General Motors, fearing a bloodbath or an indefinite continuation of the strike, reached an agreement to put the occupied plants under a collective bargaining agreement with the UAW. Only the willingness of Flint Workers to put their lives on the line made this agreement possible. Because they were Ready to Die, several generations of auto workers were Able to Live.