TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB-TV) – As the United Auto Workers continues its strike against General Motors, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was in Buffalo Wednesday to cheer workers on.
Tom Perez, a Buffalo native, told UAW workers he stands with them.
General Motors employees are still striking for fair wages and benefits after the union and company couldn’t reach a contract agreement late Sunday night.
On Wednesday, many workers on the picket line said it’s energizing and creates momentum to have the support Perez, a national power player with local roots.
“You will have what you have earned because you have earned it all,” Perez told picketers, who clapped and cheered at his message.
Perez was also the former labor secretary under President Obama. He says General Motors is playing dirty.
“They got a bailout, and they got a massive tax cut. You need to share that with your workers,” Perez said.
Connie Johnson, a GM worker of six years, said she’s glad he’s reminding the nation that workers stood by GM during tough times.
“They don’t realize that after the bailout, so many concessions we’re made, and pretty much everything was given up,” Johnson said. “And it’s our feeling now that GM should be giving…restoring all of that.”
Asked about narrowing down the long list of Democratic presidential candidates, Perez said the DNC will get there with its nominee by next spring, but in the meantime, he brought the question back to the UAW strike, saying all of the candidates have supporting unions in common.
“They believe that union members should be at the table and not on the menu. Unfortunately, there’s a president in the White House that wants to make sure the labor movement’s on the menu. How do we know that? Look at the two Supreme Court Justices he appointed. Anti-union justices who have made it much more difficult in the public sector to organize a union,” Perez said.
John Orsini, an employee for about 25 years, related to that metaphor.
“When you got someone at that level coming down to talk to us and to get everyone all pumped up about what we got going on here…he was saying if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. And that really resonates with us because ever since everything started not going our way, it just seemed like that we were under attack,” Orsini said.
Tuesday, General Motors stopped paying for workers’ healthcare while they’re on strike, shifting that cost to the union.