White Shirt Day Date in the current year: February 11, 2024

White Shirt Day White Shirt Day, also known as National White Shirt Day and National White T-Shirt Day, is observed annually on February 11. It was created to commemorate a historic automobile worker strike that made General Motors recognize the United Auto Workers and improve working conditions for the company’s employees.

The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, commonly known as the United Auto Workers (UAW), represents workers in the United States (including Puerto Rico) and Canada. It was created in 1935 as part of the Committee for Industrial Organizations within the American Federation of Labor.

The UAW started as a collection of isolated local chapters that organized campaigns at small plants and avoided large factories, but everything changed after the 1936–1937 Flint sit-down strike. In December 1936, the UAW began a sit-down strike at GM’s most valuable production plants in Flint, Michigan. Approximately 2,000 workers occupied the plant and were able to withstand armed police attacks for almost a month and a half.

The strike came to an end on February 11, 1937 with the UAW’s win. Frank Murphy, the newly elected governor of Michigan, acted as a mediator during negotiations where GM recognized the UAW as the exclusive representative for the company’s employees who were members of the union for the next half a year.

Although the UAW’s agreement with GM was short, it was a definite victory that legitimized the union and gave it an opportunity to change working conditions at the Flint plants for the better and organize strikes at other GM plants throughout the United States. Due to this, the Flint sit-down strike is widely regarded as the most significant labor conflict of the 20th century in North America.

Following the success of the strike, autoworkers started to wear white shirts to work every February 11 to emphasize that blue-collar workers deserve the same treatment and respect as white-collar workers. The inaugural celebration of White Shirt Day was initiated by Bert Christensen, a member of UAW Local 598, in 1948. Christensen founded it to remind the younger workers that they had job security, paid vacations, healthcare, and pensions thanks to those who had come before them and fought for fairness and respect in the workplace.

On the occasion of White Shirt Day, UAW members, community activists, lawmakers, and other stakeholders hold special events to commemorate the anniversary of the Flint sit-down strike, celebrate the accomplishments of the UAW, and remind that the fight is never really over and American workers should continue to stand together to protect their rights.

Even if you’re not an autoworker, you can observe White Shirt Day by reaching out to the autoworkers you know and thanking them for everything they do, reading a book or watching a documentary about the history of labor unions and their impact, and spreading the word about the observance on social media with the hashtags #WhiteShirtDay, #NationalWhiteShirtDay and #NationalWhiteTShirtDay.

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