ROCKLAND COUNTY, New York (WABC) -- New York Governor Kathy Hochul joined striking autoworkers on the picket line at the Chrysler Parts Depot in Rockland County.
The United Auto Workers strike is now in its third week.
"Every once in a while you have to stand up and do what's right," Hochul said Wednesday.
Weeks into the strike, union members at the Chrysler parts center in Tappan are grateful for any support they can get.
Local 3039 President Jeffrey Purcell shared some words with Hochul and said her gesture meant a lot to the members.
He said the move provided a morale boost to picketers along Route 303 as he fights for a pension.
"I'm a single father of three, I have two daughters and a son, I've been here for 14 years, I have 16 more years before I can retire," Purcell said. "When I retire I want to be able to live the American life like anyone else."
The governor's appearance follows President Joe Biden's stop on the picket lines in Michigan a week ago and comes as Detroit's big three auto makers are furloughing or laying off thousands of non-union employees as the standoff with union members continues.
"I encourage the leaders of the auto companies to stay at the table, get back to the table, roll up their sleeves and get the job done," Hochul said.
Hochul pledged unwavering union support in the face of potential economic damage from the strike, which was music to the ears of striking workers.
"We want equality for everyone here and it's not just about us - it's about every worker in the United States, it's time," said auto worker Johanna Gelcius.
The union is asking for 36% raises in general pay over four years - a top-scale assembly plant worker gets about $32 an hour now. In addition, the UAW has demanded an end to varying tiers of wages for factory jobs; a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay; the restoration of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new hires who now receive only 401(k)-style retirement plans; and a return of cost-of-living pay raises, among other benefits.
Perhaps most important to the union is that it be allowed to represent workers at 10 electric vehicle battery factories, most of which are being built by joint ventures between automakers and South Korean battery makers. The union wants those plants to receive top UAW wages. In part that's because workers who now make components for internal combustion engines will need a place to work as the industry transitions to EVs.
Currently, UAW workers hired after 2007 don't receive defined-benefit pensions. Their health benefits are also less generous. For years, the union gave up general pay raises and lost cost-of-living wage increases to help the companies control costs. Though top-scale assembly workers earn $32.32 an hour, temporary workers start at just under $17. Still, full-time workers have received profit-sharing checks ranging this year from $9,716 at Ford to $14,760 at Stellantis.
Over the past decade, the Detroit Three have emerged as robust profit-makers. They've collectively posted net income of $164 billion, $20 billion of it this year. The CEOs of all three major automakers earn multiple millions in annual compensation.
(Some Information from the Associated Press)