On this day in labor history, the year was 1944. That was the day Local 212, UAW workers at Briggs returned to work.
Briggs was directly involved in war production. 3000 workers, on two shifts, made ball turrets for heavy bombers.
Workers on both shifts walked off the job when management at the Outer Drive plant carried out a series of transfers and layoffs, while expecting the same level of production.
It had been the second walkout in a week. Management set a precedent of refusing to settle grievances of any kind.
They routinely snubbed the union, insisting they take any and all grievances to the War Labor Board.
Local 212 president, Jess Ferrazza noted it would take anywhere from 12-18 months to get a grievance processed.
Workers were fed up with waiting. He added “it was like a fireman with a water bucket running around trying to put fires out.
Management never cooperated.
If the grievance were a justifiable one, they would not settle it.
They would tell you to get the workers back to work.”
The strike came on the heels of a contentious State CIO convention earlier in the month.
There, delegates debated the merits of the no-strike pledge. Local 212 delegates were among a full third of total delegates, who made known their opposition to the pledge. Ferrazza argued that, “the no-strike pledge has tied labor’s hands and as long as our hands are tied, the corporations will continue their attacks on labor.”
Briggs workers agreed to return to their jobs on the promise of direct settlement of grievances.
They also geared up for the national CIO convention, intent on overturning the wartime, no-strike pledge.