Flint Sitdowner: Olen Ham (1917-2012)

Against the Current, No. 161, November/December 2012

Dianne Feeley

IN 1936, JUST out of high school, Olen Ham got a job working in the Buick foundry in Flint. It was the dirtiest and hottest place to work. There was no ventilation, no safety standards, no breaks. The wage was 52 cents an hour for men and six cents less for women, although the work was often the same.

He started work just a few months before the 44-day sitdown strike forced General Motors to negotiate with the workers and recognize the UAW. During the strike his job was to walk the picket line and built support for the sitdowners inside.

When the GM workers won, both men and women made a dollar an hour.

In 2010, when autoworkers at the GM plant at Lake Orion learned that their plant was going to become a 100% two-tier plant, starting with 40% at the lower wage, he heard about the protest planned in front of the gates at the UAW headquarters in Detroit, and traveled down from the Flint area to participate. He wore a UAW jacket with a button that said, “Hands Off My Pension.” As one of the last survivors of the 1936-37 sitdown strike, he knew what two-tier wages meant and told the crowd, “Don’t let them roll you back!”

His solidarity will be remembered by a new generation of workers.

November/December 2012, ATC 161

1 comment

  1. we as the children of the employees want ot know what excacley happen to our fathers funds it seems like everu provident doesnt know anything about their money and it was said that they will get their money before the delta was changed into General Motors ,now no one seems to know what happen we will take these unions to television of we have to its even werse our fathhers were called earlier last year tru herald news paper to come and attend a meeting about their fund now there were lawyers from america who told them that G.M got bankrupt and that theres only assets available which they have to sell and give the money to the workers and that will take a long time. now they were called again to come about their surplus funds they were told that the money is available and they were given forms to fill and send them to MIBCO offices in Newton Park they were also told that there is fund available to them and that they will only get them first week of December 2012 until now theres nothing bt there are people who got their funds and at MIBCO they said they are working on a alphabetical order and can only work 10 people a day it takes time and now when we try and call those offices to try and find out how ling they are they say they dont know anything of a sort they never worked with GENERAL MOTORS employees HOW IS THAT PLEASE HELP YOU GUYS ARE MY LAST HOPE BECAUSE NO ONE SEEMS TO KNOW ANYTHING AND THAT MAKES ME WONDER.

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