Tom Perez Joins UAW Workers in Tonawanda

DNC Chair says it's time for GM to treat workers fairly

Brendan Keany
September 18, 2019 - 6:59 pm

(WBEN Photo/Brendan Keany)

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TONAWANDA (WBEN) - As UAW workers around the country are striking, the current DNC Chair and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez paid a visit to the Tonawanda Engine Plant on Wednesday afternoon, and he says it's time for GM to share the wealth they're currently experiencing.

Perez, a Democrat, says this is an issue about basic fairness.

"We have a unity of values in our party," said Perez. "We believe that if you have a pre-existing condition, you ought to keep your healthcare; we believe that the union movement brought us the middle class; we believe that when you work a full-time job, you ought to be paid a fair wage, and you ought to be able to feed your family, take a vacation once in a while and retire with dignity."

New York Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul says that Western New York has a strong history of supporting labor.

"New York State is the most unionized state in the nation, and I'm going to guess that Western New York is the most unionized part of the most unionized state in the nation," said Hochul. "This is in our DNA - to stand up and fight for working men and women. We've done it since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution here in Western New York."

Perez noted the Great Recession of a decade ago, when the survival of the auto industry was uncertain at best, and he recalled GM receiving a bailout when times became so desperate. He believes it's GM's time to return the favor.

"In the course of that, the GM workers said that, 'We will share the sacrifice because we understand that these are tough times,' but in return, that basic bargain is that when times get better, then we should share in the prosperity, and times are undeniably better..." said Perez. "I think these workers should share in that prosperity; they're not asking for the moon, they're just asking for fair treatment, and I think they ought to get it. They had GM's back back in 2009, and GM ought to have their back now."

Hochul added that situations like these can have a serious impact on shaping the national and local political climate.

"This is when the going gets tough, but we also have to send a message that needs to be heard in Washington, that you don't mess with men and women of the middle class, the working men and women in places like Buffalo and Western New York because they will rise up, and there will be consequences at the polls," she said. "Perhaps they were not seen in 2016, but I'll guarantee there will be a whole new resurrection of intense interest in what goes on in 2020, as we try to have individuals represent us in Washington and the White House who actually understand that the middle class and our country is built by workers like these here today."

Perez echoed that sentiment, saying that everyone remaining as a Democratic candidate for President supports the workers in this fight.

"We have a deep bench of presidential candidates, and you know what they all have in common? They believe in the workers of the UAW - they have the back of the workers of the UAW," he said. "They believe that union workers should be at the table not on the menu. Unfortunately, there's a President at the White House who wants to make sure that the labor movement is on the menu. How do we know that? Look at the two Supreme Court justices he appointed - anti-union justices."

Listen to their full comments below:

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