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Nov. 15, 2022

Midnight in the Vehicle City: The Strike Heard Around the World

Midnight in the Vehicle City: The Strike Heard Around the World

The conversation examines the impact the 1937 sit-down strike made on the culture of Flint, Michigan, and its people. Does the intensive local activism of 1937 that spurred the birth of the UAW still exist today in Flint?

Midnight in Vehicle City by author Edward McClelland tells the gripping story of how workers defeated General Motors, the largest industrial corporation in the world.


Midnight in Vehicle City by author Edward McClelland tells the gripping story of how workers defeated General Motors, the largest industrial corporation in the world. The workers' victory ushered in the golden age of the American middle class and created a new kind of America in which every worker had a right to share the company's wealth.

Listen to a clip of a stirring archival speech by the late Walter P. Ruether, former President of the United Automobile Workers Union. Ruether's words hit a note, given today's struggle to protect democracy.

The conversation examines the impact the strike made on the culture of Flint, Michigan, and its people. Does the intensive local activism of 1937 that spurred the birth of the UAW still exist today in Flint?

Now that the 1937 sit-down strikers are gone, why does the labor movement still celebrate this strike? What did this historical confrontation between the UAW and General Motors accomplish? Did the famous strike help build the American middle class?

Please visit the author's website if you want more information about author Edward McClelland and to purchase his book Midnight in the Vehicle City or any of his other books.

The song "1937" in the podcast introduction and outro were written by David O. Norris and Dan Hall and performed by Dan Hall and a local choir of UAW members.   Many thanks to them and UAW Region 1-D for their assistance in producing this song.

The historical photographs included on the Radio Free Flint episodes page are courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C]

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Edward McClellan Profile Photo

Edward McClellan

Author

Edward McClelland is a native of Lansing, Mich., also the birthplace of Burt Reynolds and the Oldsmobile.

Ted’s most recent book, Midnight in Vehicle City: General Motors, Flint, and the Strike That Built the Middle Class, is a narrative account of the 1936-37 Flint Sit Down Strike, which led to the establishment of the United Auto Workers as the nation’s flagship labor union. His previous book, How to Speak Midwestern, is a guide to the speech and sayings of Middle America, which The New York Times called “a dictionary wrapped in some serious dialectology inside a gift book trailing a serious whiff of Relevance.” After getting his start in journalism at the Lansing Community College Lookout, Ted worked for the Chicago Reader, where he met Barack Obama during his failed 2000 campaign for Congress. His coverage of that race became the basis of Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President. His book The Third Coast: Sailors, Strippers, Fishermen, Folksingers, Long-Haired Ojibway Painters and God-Save-the-Queen Monarchists of the Great Lakes, a travelogue of a 10,000-mile journey around the Lakes, won the 2008 Great Lakes Book Award in General Nonfiction.

Ted’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Columbia Journalism Review, Salon, Slate, and Playboy.