DETROIT – United Auto Workers convention delegates overwhelmingly elected Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams to succeed retiring union President Bob King. Williams defeated challenger Gary Walkowicz, a Local 600 bargaining committeeman, 3,215-49. Delegates named Region 8 Director Gary Casteel as Secretary-Treasurer, by acclamation.
The delegates, meeting in Detroit, celebrated rising employment, and increasing UAW membership, at the Detroit 3 car companies, as well as King’s actions, with the firms and the federal government, to save jobs and save the automakers after 2008 Great Recession hit.
King reminded them of the wins, but also said there’s a lot more work to do, particularly in organizing. And he warned them of further and new obstacles there, particularly political opposition from the right wing. That appeared in the vicious anti-UAW campaign that led to the union’s narrow loss in February at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.
And UAW’s resolutions committee asked delegates to approve an increase for political action, along with more money for the UAW strike fund.
The union also faces upcoming negotiations with the Detroit 3. Chrysler’s CEO recently praised UAW’s role in the Chrysler rescue and said he wants to eliminate the two-tier wage system that was part of it. But one news report says he’s shooting for a $19 hourly wage, midway between the $28 veteran workers get and the $14 paid to new hires at the same jobs.
Williams, a Marine Corps veteran, joined UAW Local 806 in 1977, when he was a salvage welder at J.I. Case. Before being Secretary-Treasurer for the last four years, Williams spent much of his UAW career in organizing and bargaining in the Midwest, notably in Illinois.
Williams’ UAW bio says he “was instrumental in turning around” the union’s relationship with the heavy equipment maker Navistar (International Harvester) and in bargaining UAW’s first contract with Mitsubishi Motors in Bloomington, Ill.
Besides electing officers, convention delegates worked their way through a number of resolutions. One restated the union’s strong support for the Affordable Care Act, and lauding improvements in health care that it has brought, while reaffirming UAW’s commitment to eventual passage of government-run single-payer health care. Others included:
* Job safety: Delegates called for “stronger member engagement and mandated state-of-the-art Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) testing facilities” and political activism to reverse OSHA budget cuts, and to advocate more research into prevention of breast and prostate cancers linked to workplace chemical exposure.
* Trade: The UAW will “fight for fair trade agreements with strong protections for workers, consumers and the environment.” It also declares any phase-out of U.S. tariffs on Japanese cars and parts must be conditioned “on a genuine opening of the Japanese auto market, using a concrete benchmark for non-Japanese vehicles and parts. And it declares UAW will fight for “strong labor and environmental standards in trade agreements.”
Photo: Dennis Williams. UAW.org