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UAW looks to restore its image facing corruption scandal, shrinking job market

Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

The United Auto Workers is choosing its probable new leadership team after several devastating blows that include an expanding corruption scandal, failed attempts to organize Southern auto assembly plants and a shrinking number of manufacturing jobs that are its base.

"They have been knocked down in the 11th round and the ref is counting to see if they can get back up," said Dave Sullivan, a product analysis manager at AutoPacific, who worked at Ford on the assembly line and as a supervisor. "2018 will be a trying year for the UAW."

He said the union -- which represents more than 415,000 automotive workers, casino dealers, college teachers, agricultural equipment manufacturers and aerospace engineers -- has lost its influence and lacks a clear mission. A federal investigation into stolen worker training money makes things worse.

Meanwhile, union leaders are working to highlight accomplishments.

Under Dennis Williams, first as secretary-treasurer and then as president, the UAW has regained its financial footing, increased membership over the past seven years, won the first member-approved dues increase in decades and recruited new members from outside the auto industry. About 40 percent of UAW members come from other industries.

Now, Williams will retire after his 65th birthday and the union must find a way to navigate in a legal and political environment that has been hostile toward organized labor and to build on its recent gains.


Local union leaders from around the country are meeting this week in Detroit to choose a slate of officers.

That slate will campaign until June, when the 37th Constitutional Convention election takes place in Detroit. Challengers to union leaders' slate can run, but short of a full-fledged mutiny, those chosen this week will move up.

It is then that UAW delegates elect their new president.

Front-runners to succeed Williams include:


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