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Not Automatic: Women and the Left in the Forging of the Auto Workers’ Union


Paperback, 220 pages
ISBN: 1-58367-018-1
Released: May 2000

This story of the birth and infancy of the United Auto Workers, told by two participants, shows how the gains workers made were neither easy nor inevitable—not automatic—but required strategic and tactical sophistication as well as concerted action.

Sol Dollinger recounts how workers, especially activists on the political left, created an auto union and struggled with one another over what shape the union should take. In an oral history conducted by Susan Rosenthal, Genora Johnson Dollinger tells the gripping tale of her role in various struggles, both political and personal.

Sol Dollinger’s remembrance of UAW’s early days are juicy and provocative. His recall of those goofy internecine political battles within the union is tragic-comic. Yet they, united, even though hollering at each other, made GM, Ford, et al, recognize the union. The sequence involving Genora Johnson Dollinger, the heroine of the 1937 sit-down strike, is deeply moving and inspiring.

—Studs Terkel

Should be read by every labor person who takes the principles of trade union history seriously. [Not Automatic] brings the history of the UAW up for a new survey of the events to include the men and women who would otherwise be unsung heroes or written out of history totally.

—David Yettaw, President, UAW Buick Local 599 (1987-1996)


Foreword by Kim Moody


Part I. Organizing the Auto Industry and the Rise of Walter Reuther, 1934-1941

  1. The Toledo Auto-Lite Strike, 1934
  2. The Toledo Chevrolet Transmission Strike, 1935
  3. Homer Martin Leads the UAW
  4. Factional Warfare Breaks Out, 1937-1938
  5. A Program for Peace
  6. R.J. Thomas Elected Leader as Recession and War Preparation Hit
  7. The UAW Organizes the Ford Motor Company, 1940-1941
  8. Equality of Sacrifice?
  9. Anti-Union Forces Take Revenge
  10. Briggs and the Mafia
  11. Reuther Slams the Door on Union Democracy

Part II. Oral History

  1. Striking Flint: Genora Dollinger Remembers the 1937 Sit-Down

Part III. Putting the Record Straight

  1. Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval
  2. Who Led the Flint Sit-Downs to Victory?: On the Rewriting of History

Epilogue: The Auto Unions Today




Sol Dollinger served in the merchant marines before and during the Second World War and worked in the 1940s and 1950s at the Hudson Motor Car Company, Budd Wheel, Motor Products Company, and Briggs Manufacturing Company in Detroit, as well as the Chevrolet assembly plant in Flint, Michigan. Genora Johnson Dollinger(1913-1995) played a leading role in organizing women during the Flint sit-down strike of 1936-1937. Her actions were the subject of two award-winning documentaries, The Great Sit-Down Strike and With Babies and Banners.

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SKU: mrp0181 Categories: , Tag:

Publication Date: May 2000

Number of Pages: 220

Paperback ISBN: 9781583670187