Tonawanda News

Business

May 20, 2009

LABOR: Workers, retirees rally at Delphi to get Washington’s attention

United Way President Carol Houwaart-Diez wore a black shirt Wednesday with two words on it: “Live united.”

Houwaart-Diez was one of several speakers at a United Auto Workers rally at Delphi Thermal Systems that drew hundreds of workers, retirees and anyone affected by the auto industry.

The crowd stood united on the lawn of Delphi to send a clear message to lawmakers in Washington D.C. and Albany. Their message: The loss of manufacturing jobs has a negative impact on the Western New York economy and affects more than just the displaced worker.

“Enough is enough,” said Scott Adams, United Auto Workers Region 9 associate president. “We need to stand together and tell your elected officials to stop the bleeding.”

Just 10 years ago, Delphi had 7,000 workers at its Lockport plant, Adams said. Now there are about 1,200 employees. The same trend has been seen all over Western New York, with recent examples such as American Axle and GM Powertrain in Tonawanda, Adams said.

Also speaking at the rally was Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker, a Delphi retiree and a UAW officer for 24 years. Tucker recently spoke with Gov. David Paterson about the importance to the region of manufacturing sites such as Delphi. Tucker said he tells all government officials the very same thing.

“Because they really need to know that auto jobs matter, that manufacturing jobs matter,” Tucker said.

People jammed the auto parts manufacturer’s lawn on Upper Mountain Road, most holding signs echoing the need to save American manufacturing jobs. As the rally continued, some vehicles honked their support as they passed by. Rally attendees came from as far as the Delphi plant in Rochester, with buses bringing throngs of UAW workers from various locations.

William Pienta, United Steel Workers District 4 director, told the crowd his remarks were focused on two different numbers. The first was 7.2 million, as in the number of jobs affected both directly and indirectly by the American auto industry. The second number, 25 million, is the number of people who are impacted by the 7.2 million. The auto industry affects all different kinds of other fields, such as the paper industry or steel industry, Pienta said. It affects the whole community, he added.

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