As of midnight, 1,357 United Auto Workers at the General Motors engine plant in the Town of Tonawanda were on strike. They joined workers at plants across the country in a nationwide action, after both sides failed to agree on a new contract over issues including wages, health care and profit-sharing.
"Its for the workers from the past that fought, it's for getting respect back, bringing jobs back over here. It's for the pay and benefits, all the things we strive for as the American people," said Local 774 President J.R. Baker. "We do what we gotta do here, we build the engines for these vehicles. At the end of the day, we just want a great contract."
Baker, a millwright, said he is just back from Detroit. He said the decision to strike is not taken lightly, but the local union supports its national bargaining committee.
"You know what, it's our time and one of our mottos is, 'when we fight, we win,' and we will be fighting now," said Baker. "We're already set up right now to start our picket, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nothing will move until we get what we want."
Baker said disputed issues include GM's recent announcement to close four factories. He said the union wants those jobs to remain in the United States.
Locally, workers at GM's components plant in Lockport are also affected by the strike. The next rounds of talks is expected at 10 a.m. The strike is the first against GM since a two-day walkout in 2007.