Skip to main content
No Access

Moral Economy, Structural Leverage, and Organizational Efficacy: Class Formation and the Great Flint Sit-Down Strike, 1936–1937

In this article we use the Great Flint Sit-Down Strike as a strategic case for examining the issue of movement success in seemingly disadvantageous structural conditions. Through an application and elaboration of social movement and organizational theory to the Flint sit-down strike we identify four key factors that help to explain the emergence of successful collective defiance by labor: (1) the violation of the autoworkers’ moral economy by General Motors; (2) the organizational flexibility of the UAW in adding new, revised, or revived mobilization and direct action strategies to protest repertoires to take advantage of preexisting social structures; (3) the identification of the sit-down strike as a strategy that leveraged the positional power of autoworkers; and (4) the on-the-ground organizational model used by the UAW, which allowed for democratic decision making that took advantage of local conditions.