By Joyce Shaw Peterson
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Extra resources for American automobile workers, 1900-1933
Among the watchmen who were not relieved from duty is one who is a German, who has been in America only a few years. Another watchman is a man who until recently lived in Chicago; there is another watchman, a former shoemaker, from some place in Illinois. I was born and raised in Detroit and lived there practically all my life. 24 Rather than divide their employees further, employers used Americanization to educate into industrial work habits and factory discipline workers whose previous experience was preindustrial.
They were white, black, foreign, native, young, old, male, and female. But in the main, they were young and male, limited in industrial skills and eager for a good paying job. Auto workers were a diverse lot, and their diversity is as crucial to understanding the nonunion years of auto history as their common working circumstances. A few capsule biographies may help give individual form to the aggregate statistics to follow. Andrew Montgomery was born on a farm in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He lived and worked on the farm as a child; as a young man, he worked in a paper box factory in Jonesboro, went on to drive a truck, work in an Arkansas factory compressing cotton, be a fireman, a watchman, and a night engineer for a West Memphis power company.
He was an avid newspaper reader. In 1930, he participated in a short strike at Fisher Body, and in 1933, he helped to form an American Federation of Labor federal local. 2 Bud Simons grew up in southern Indiana, the son of a tenant farmer, and he moved to South Bend in 1924. Before starting work in the auto industry he had worked on a farm, in a furniture factory, on the railroad, in telegraph construction, as a structural steel erector, and as a plasterer. In the auto industry, he was a disc grinder, torch solderer, and worked the body shops, working as an auto garage mechanic as a sideline.