He would later recall it as his most 'momentous' year" (Winter, 1996, p. 101). Ford's competitors incorporated its principles into their production lines. In the mid-1950s, 95% of all cars sold in the US were American-made, and most of those we made by the so-called "Big Three." The enormous historical success of the American auto industry's Big Three did not prevent smaller manufacturers from industrial failure from the 1960s through the 1980s (e.g., Studebaker, American Motors). In part that is attributable to successful Japanese and European competition in the US market during that period. However, the American auto industry has a longer history of trouble.
Unionization was an auto-industry issue from its inception, but not until 1935 were employers prevented from firing union workers at will. What began in 1936 as an attempt by the United Mine Workers to organize unions in the steel industry escalated into what became known as the Big Strike, first against General Motors, where workers staged a sit-down strike and occupation of various assembly plants in Michigan and Ohio, and then against Chrysler and Dodge. Membership in the United Auto Workers (UAW) zoomed from 30,000 in 1936 to 400,000 by the end of 1937 (Leuchtenburg, 1963). Ford, which had a history of employing strikebreakers and firing union organizers, was last