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Seeking Terms

March 2023
1min read

Your recent article on the 1936 General Motors strike (April/May 1982) interested me greatly, as I was a young GM staff assistant then. I remember that after the strike was over and production resumed, a meeting was called in Detroit of manufacturing and personnel people from all the plants. Over two hundred people must have been in the big meeting room, where we listened to the boss of all GM production, William S. Knudsen. After calling the meeting to order, he started out by saying in his wonderful Danish accent:

“Gentlemen, the reason for this meeting reminds me of a story. An actor friend of mine once went to New York to get in a play. He needed a place to live, and so he went to a boardinghouse he had heard about. He knocked, and the landlady came to the door. ‘Good morning, madam,’ he said. ‘What are your best terms for actors?’

” ‘My best terms for actors are bastards and sons-of-bitches.’ Then she closed the door in his face.

“Now, gentlemen, we cannot treat the labor people that way any more.”

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