Some 49,000 employees in the US walked out after contract talks on pay and benefits with General Motors came to a grinding halt. It marks the first national strike since 2007 for the union autoworkers at GM.
More than 49,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) members walked off the job on Sunday night as contract talks broke down with employer General Motors.
Union officials are demanding that the company share the benefits of several years of strong sales with employees who have borne the brunt of past downturns.
The union said the strike was a last resort but that the two parties are still far from reaching an agreement. GM claimed it has made substantial offers that include higher wages and a $7 billion investment in factories that would create hundreds of new jobs.
Union members are leaving the assembly lines to set up picket lines at 33 plants across the US as well as 22 parts warehouses.
Some 200 union leaders at plant level voted in favor of a walkout at a meeting in Detroit on Sunday morning, after a four-year contract between the company and workers expired.
"We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most. Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our members," said union Vice President Terry Dittes in a statement.
Both parties were said to be far apart on reaching a deal despite a GM offer to make new products at two of four factories in the US it had planned to close. With talks scheduled to resume on Monday morning, it remained unclear when the strike would end.
While GM has enjoyed several years of strong sales, last year recording $11.8 billion in operating profits, concerns have grown about a possible recession amid trade tensions.
The firm announced last November that it was shutting five plants in North America.
rc/stb (AP, Reuters)