Sit-down strikes were used often in the 1930s by workers in the steel, automobile, and rubber industries. Sit-down strikes effectively paralyzed businesses because, although employees showed up at work, they would not carry out their daily tasks. Thus employers could not hire people to take the place of striking workers. In 1937, autoworkers in Flint, Michigan had a sit-down strike, shown here, at the Chevrolet Plant. The Supreme Court made these strikes illegal in 1939.
Some discontented workers cautiously organized into labor unions during the depression in order to improve working conditions and increase pay. By 1936 the United Automobile Workers (UAW) planned to stop work at General Motors. Workers at a GM plant in Cleveland were angered when the plant manager refused to discuss reductions in the piece work rate, and they started one of the first so-called sit-down strike in history, where workers sat down at their posts and refused to leave until their demands were met. The six-week strike involved fewer than 2,000 workers, but it affected more than 150,000 other workers in different production areas. The contract negotiated between management and labor representatives helped boost the reputation of the UAW, although actual concessions gained in the contract were minimal.