In what was a foregone conclusion, union delegates today elected Dennis Williams president of the UAW, replacing the retiring Bob King. Williams, who was the union’s secretary-treasurer, crushed his only challenger, Gary Walkowicz, a Local 600 leader from Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant.
Walkowicz has been critical of many of the UAW’s policies, including the recently approved 25% increase in monthly dues. Williams carried more than 90% of the vote with 3,215 of a possible 3,270 votes.
“It’s humbling,” Williams said during a short meeting with the media following his victory, according to the Detroit News. “I’m excited for our union.”
Also elected Wednesday: Gary Casteel as the union’s new secretary-treasurer, and Norwood Jewell, as an international union vice president. Cindy Estrada and Jimmy Settles were re-elected as vice presidents.
While the delegates voted on a variety of issues, it was the crowning of Williams, who will be sworn in tomorrow, that takes center stage. He ascends to the presidency of the UAW at a time when it faces many challenges: shrinking membership, financial pressures, a membership that hasn’t gotten a raise in nine years and calls to end the two-tier wage system that is now common place in the U.S. auto industry.
Let’s also not forget: negotiations on the next contract with the Detroit Three begin next year…or sooner if Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has his way. He told reporters recently he wants to begin discussions shortly after Williams takes office.
(Contentious vote gives UAW dues hike. For more, Click Here.)
That said, his first task may be to continue shoring up the UAW’s finances: he’s the architect of the union’s current plans that have led them away from financial hardship, including the sale of real estate and the creation of a voluntary employee benefits association for the union’s own retirees.
(Click Here for more details out of the UAW’s convention in Detroit.)
Another hurdle was cleared yesterday when delegates approved the increase in the monthly dues paid to the union from two hours wages a month to two-and-a-half hours. The difference represents an additional $50 million in annual revenue for the UAW.
(To see GM plans to release the details of its internal investigation into the recall, Click Here.)
Williams is the 11th president of the UAW and is also known for having political friends in high places. He counts President Barack Obama among them: a relationship forged years ago when Obama was a state senator in Illinois.