UAW Strike Enters Fifth Week

Reports indicate that negotiations are progressing

Brendan Keany
October 14, 2019 - 2:24 pm

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BUFFALO (WBEN) - Early last week, it appeared that talks between General Motors and the UAW were regressing. Late last week, it appeared that talks are again gaining traction.

JR Baker is the president of UAW Local 774, which sits directly next to the Tonawanda Engine Plant, and he says that he is constantly reminding his striking workers to not get caught up in the speculation and noise.

"We don't listen that close," began Baker. "If you get close, the anxiety gets high and you get let down - I just told everybody that until a deal is done, don't believe in close. Hold the line until we get instructions that we do have a tentative agreement...it's as simple as that. They're doing all that they can there to deal with this corporate greed and corruption, so until we actually get an agreement that we all feel is fair, then we're going to do what we have to do."

This is now the fifth week of the strike, and he says there haven't been any signs of wavering from his workers. Baker added that the community support has been extremely encouraging.

"Without the community and the politicians coming by, it would be hard to deal with this, but we actually are embracing it and feel like a fair contract is on our way," he said. "The community has been outstanding; I have a list, and it's extremely long, of generous donations and supplies to support, the horn going by and blowing - it's what gives you that extra energy to go another day. It's the wood that was delivered, the ponchos, the water to deal with inclement weather, the tents, the food, hand warmers - I mean it's just the extreme deliveries that we get and people reaching out is actually a blessing, so hats off to the community for helping out."

Western New York is an area saturated with labor workers, and Baker feels that the support they're receiving is indicative of the region's appreciation for what they're trying to achieve, and it's something bigger than a single labor dispute with GM.

"This strike isn't about just us - it's about the middle class that's being abused by these corporations that feel like the don't want to take care of their people," he added. "They don't want to lift the people up who actually do the work, but instead of that, they want to undermine us and cut wages by half, tell temporaries they don't have a right to employment, take our jobs overseas, which is unfair because we should make it here in America. It's sad because fair wages and affordable healthcare, these are things we should automatically get.

"We're not asking for no more than we already had prior to bankruptcy, prior to the corporation going and asking for bailout money - the government gave them the money - and we want the things back that we gave up...it's only fair."

Listen to Baker's full comments below:

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