Politics hits the picket line, as DNC Chair Tom Perez joins striking GM workers

Sep 19, 2019

Local union members walking the picket line in front of General Motors got some big-name support Wednesday. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez walked the line in front of the GM Powertrain plant in the Town of Tonawanda.

PerezĀ  walked the picket line for United Auto Workers Local 774, wearing a strike sign. The picketers are now getting into the rhythm of a strike, receiving notification that GM had cut off their health insurance. That drew a "dirty pool" comment from Perez.

A major issue in the strike is that GM is doing well and the workers should get some of that. Perez was more direct.

DNC Chair Tom Perez (in the white shirt) rallies union members.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"The GM workers said we will share the sacrifice because we understand that these are tough times. But, in return, that basic bargain is when times get better then we should share in the prosperity," Perez said, "and times are undeniably better. Look at their balance sheet. Look at what they got in the tax bill. They got hundreds of millions of dollars, actually billions of dollars."

In a rousing speech to gathered UAW members, the Amherst native and former U.S. labor secretary told them unions are on the way back, with national polls showing growing support. Perez said that is why the strike against GM, because it shows workers want payback for keeping the company alive in the bad years of the Great Recession.

The speech then turned to politics. Perez said all of the Democratic presidential candidates support unions and the fight for better wages and better health insurance. He then went on the attack against Donald Trump and the president's past promises that industrial plants would not close.

"He made that promise in Warren, MI and I was just there the day before that plant closed. He made that promise in Wisconsin. He made that promise here in New York. He made that promise everywhere. Folks, he lied," Perez said, "because when it came time to have your back, Barack Obama had your back. To have your back now, where is he?"

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (front) walks the UAW picket line next to DNC Chair Tom Perez, wearing a strike sign.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Perez was joined by Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who both pounded away on the point that when unions were strong, the middle class was strong. Hochul told strikers New York is a union state and that the growing strength of unions will bring back that middle class..

"Western New York is the most unionized part of the most unionized state in the nation, so this is in our DNA, to stand up and fight for working men and women," Hochul said. "We've done it since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution here in Western New York and, to be able to stand with our brothers and sisters in labor today, all unions will be here as well. Many different unions stood with our brothers and sisters of the UAW and we will be there for them."