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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

–– Gary Casteel, a secretary-treasurer who has led organizing efforts at auto assembly and parts as well as nonautomotive employers.

–– Cindy Estrada, a Detroit native who, as vice president of the union's General Motors department, oversees one of the training funds now under review by federal investigators.

–– Gary Jones, a regional director who oversees Missouri, Texas, Louisiana and the West Coast. He is widely considered the top choice as a detail-oriented certified public accountant whose thoughtful and fastidious approach may be what the union needs. Having started with the UAW at the Ford plant in Broken Arrow, Ala., he went on to serve as the union's top non-elected finance person for nearly a decade.

Williams is described as a leader who focuses on long-term strategy.

He has helped guide the union to a seven-year streak of membership growth and managed a solid budget. With his predecessor, Bob King, Williams helped push through the first member-approved dues increase since 1967.

As dues revenue declined with overall membership, the operating budget ran low and the UAW diverted money from its strike funds to cover losses.

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The UAW's finances fully recovered in 2015 for the first time since the 2007-09 recession, and continue to improve in 2016. The strike fund grew from $633 million to $679 million, according to the union. Total assets, which include buildings and other property, went from $886 million to $934 million. The union's net income from operating funds increased from $5 million to $6 million in 2016.

"The state of the UAW is solid," Williams has said. "Our members are getting pay increases. I think you've seen the bonuses that came out with Ford, GM and Chrysler, and that was a success story."

The union represents college instructors in California, Michigan, Minnesota and New York; poker dealers in Las Vegas, Detroit, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Mashantucket, Conn.; workers at Miller, Coors Beer, Bacardi Rum, John Deere and Caterpillar. They build coffee makers, pizza ovens, battleships, tractors and whiskey barrels.

Analysts wonder whether a diversified membership dilutes UAW bargaining strength for its 59,000 Ford workers, 49,500 General Motors workers and 41,000 Fiat Chrysler workers and 102,000 members at auto suppliers. Retired members, most from the auto industry, exceed 700,000.

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