UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKERS LOCAL 45 at General Motors FISHER BODY plant on Coit Rd. launched the UAW strike in 1937 which culminated in GM's acceptance of the union as the bargaining agent for its workers. Local 45 began as United Automobile Workers Federal Local 18614 affiliated with the AFL, which was dominated by the craft unions. The AFL failed to support UAW initiatives when it briefly struck for a 30% wage increase in 1934. The UAW freed itself from AFL control in 1936, joining the CIO, and Fisher Body unionists in Cleveland reorganized themselves as Local 45. Active in the national drive for recognition of the UAW by GM, Local 45 staged a sit-down strike in the plant 28 Dec. 1936, halting its operations. The local's action encouraged workers at Fisher Body plants in Flint, MI, to go out 4 days later, and the strike spread to other GM units. In Feb. 1937, the company recognized the UAW as the collective bargaining agent for its membership. During this organizing period, Local 45, whose main support came from Hungarian and Slovenian production workers, was advised by leftist labor organizers who sought to manipulate its leadership, which they considered timid. However, the local officers were responsible to its shop-floor membership, who had organized the local and reflected their wishes.

Following World War II the UAW struck for a 30% wage increase in 1946, part of which was granted; however, Local 45 remained on strike for several more months, negotiating for an end to piecework at the plant. While some improvements were made, the system remained in place. Fisher Body Local 45, whose headquarters were located at 13816 St. Clair Ave., was disbanded in 1983 when GM closed its aging plant on Coit Rd., idling 1,300 hourly workers, most of whom were UAW members.

Article Categories