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February 3, 1937

National Guard Settles Labor Concerns in Michigan

News Stories Editorials Advertising Charlottesville: A Safe Haven

On February 3, 1937 The Daily Progress placed significant emphasis on a labor dispute at the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan that was the result of workers staging a demonstration and refusing to work because they wanted higher wages and better conditions. As National Guard troops were called in to control the workers and force them to leave to premises or back to work, the event became a national issue and The Daily Progress editors decided that it was worthy of significant mention, as a public controversy over workers' disputes with management during the Depression. There were no correlative situations occurring in the Virginia area at the time, but the editors decided that it was worthy to follow what was the national headline in most of the major national newspapers at this time. During this time tensions concerning the rise of Fascism in Europe were also becoming more heavily emphasized on the pages of The Daily Progress as the editors began to note the significance of the problems in Europe and the possibility that an international conflict could be imminent.

As the controversial face-off between General Motors (armed with the support of the National Guard) and its workers continued, The Daily Progress followed the story with a strong editorial on February 3, in favor of the National Guard's forcing the workers off of the property until they agreed to come back to work under General Motors' terms. Taking the side of General Motors and the National Guard in the editorial "Standing Firm," the editorial writers stated that "At last Michigan has given definite voice to the policy that property rights are to be respected and protected. Illegal occupancy of General Motors plants in Flint by 'sit down' strikers has been ordered ended by this afternoon in an injunction..." Sensing a possible precedent being set in terms of when workers actually overstep their right to strike, the newspaper lent its firm support to the establishment of the rights of corporations to battle against striking workers. The editorialists argued that the court-allowed institution of force against the workers was a just punishment for their alleged violation of their work agreement. The editorial was decidedly pro-big-business and asserted itself against the excessive rights of workers that the editorialists at The Daily Progress felt was spiraling out of control in America. They praised the fact that the court and General Motors were willing to hammer down on these violations.

During the time period of coverage of the February 3 labor issues in Flint, Michigan, there was no mention of these problems in the advertising in Charlottesville and there were no statements from any of the larger corporations in the area. But during this time period, advertising did set an interesting precedent - on February 4 there was one of the first hard liquor advertisements to appear in The Daily Progress during this era. A very large advertisement of about a half-page advertised Town Tavern Straight Rye Whiskey for 75 cents per pint; the ad boasted that the liquor offered "quick relief" to many ailments, especially those of the stomach. But this advertisement started a notable trend where liquor advertising gradually worked its way into Charlottesville newspapers.

In its editorial and news-related emphasis on the National Guard's use of power against striking General Motors workers in Flint, Michigan, The Daily Progress emphatically chose to support the rights of the corporations across the nation in ongoing labor disputes. With this stance, the newspaper again took the side of the conservative and rich people who had money and power; the editors demonstrated that Charlottesville was in many cases a community dominated by the "haves" and not so much by the "have-not" laborers. The advertisers, however, did not take any sort of stand against the use of force or any stand for it. They seemed to demonstrate that the employers of Charlottesville did not necessarily have an opinion either way, because there was not a large amount of manufacturing taking place in Charlottesville during the time period. This was indicative of the political and labor mind-set in Charlottesville during much of the Depression, while they were protected in their cocoon of relative wealth and security.

Inside This Edition: Reporting on Key Dates in the Depression

October 29, 1929: Stock Market Crash March 4, 1933: FDR Innaugurated March 5, 1933: FDR declares 'bank holiday' March 9, 1933: Emergency Banking Bill passed May 12, 1933: Federal Emergency Relief Act passed December 5, 1933: Repeal of Prohibition
May 6, 1935: WPA established August 14, 1935 Social Security Act passed November 3, 1936: FDR re-elected February 3, 1937: National Guard prepared to strike workers in Flint, Michigan September 16, 1940: Selective Service Act passed December 7, 1941: Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor


Works Cited