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March is Women’s History Month. From the sit-down strikes of 1936-37 through the war years of Rosie the Riveter, from the postwar fight for jobs to today’s campaigns for pay equity and safe workplaces, women have played a key role in UAW history. Side by side, women and men are building a stronger union every day. We salute UAW women everywhere. Here’s the story of a few noteworthy UAW women:
The Flint Women’s Auxiliary collected money for families, visited strike widows to improve their morale, and provided child care for mothers on the picket lines. When the strike became violent, the Flint Women’s Emergency Brigade was formed to protect the sit-down strikers who were their husbands, sons, brothers and fellow co-workers. Wielding mops, brooms rolling pins or pans, they surrounded the men on the picket line and formed human shields against the police. When tear gas was hurled into the buildings to break the strike, the women smashed the windows so it would escape.
The Flint Women’s Emergency Brigade grew from 50 to 350 women before the 44-day strike was over. Their courage helped the UAW win the sit-down strike against General Motors in 1936-1937 that marked a major turning point in the labor movement giving the UAW legitimacy as a union. The brigade used military titles to show its readiness for combat. They wore colored berets and armbands with “EB” inscribed on them; the Flint Brigade’s berets were red, Detroit’s green and Lansing’s white, and Pontiac orange.
Read more about the women who helped build a strong UAW in the March-April edition of Solidarity Magazine.
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