The strike shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the US, as well as 22 parts-distribution warehouses.
General Motors said it made a substantial offer, including higher pay and profit sharing, along with investment to bring new jobs.
Before that a strike at just two major parts plants in Flint, Mich., in 1998 that lasted 54 days eventually shut down much of GM's North American operations.
In the strike announcement, the UAW said the strike is an effort to have GM and the other U.S. automakers recognize "contributions and sacrifices that the company's UAW members have made to create a healthy, profitable, industry".
If there is a strike, it would be the union's first since a two-day work stoppage at GM in 2007.
Auto analysts say the mistrust of UAW top officials could make auto workers a harder sell on a final contract.
"This is our last resort", says Terry Dittes, Vice-President of United Auto Workers (UAW).
On the other side, GM expects union employees to share more health care costs, increase productivity, and be more flexible in GM's 12 remaining US factories and 22 parts plants.
"We are standing up for fair wages", Dittes said. It appeared that GM workers were crossing picket lines Sunday set up by their own union. This reportedly also includes a solution to keep alive two plants which were condemned for deallocation, the Detroit-Hamtramck and Lordstown facilities, by allocating new products to the facility. "We do what we gotta do here, we build the engines for these vehicles". GM pays $63 per hour in wages and benefits compared with $50 at the foreign-owned factories. The new factory would be in addition to a proposal to make electric vehicles for a company called Workhorse, the person said.
Union workers say they want a bigger part of the company's record profits, improved health insurance plans and better pension plans.
Many union-ambivalent workers cited the corruption scandal in UAW's recent high profile defeat in its attempt to unionize Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant in June.
Late on Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter urged the UAW and GM to "get together and make a deal!".
GM announced last November it was effectively shuttering five plants in North America, including facilities in MI and OH that were "unallocated" for production.
The strike comes at a precarious time for the union, which has been hit with a federal investigation into both its current and former presidents, Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. GM now has too much USA factory capacity, especially to build slower-selling cars. GM's gap is the largest at $13 per hour, followed by Ford at $11 and Fiat Chrysler at $5, according to figures from the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think-tank.