After a secretive conclave in Detroit, Bob King, a well-known figure around the Detroit Three auto industry has secured the nod of a majority of the executive board of United Auto Workers union during a member’s only caucus to become the next president.
King, 63, has served as current president Ron Gettelfinger’s top lieutenant in recent years. He also has handled several rounds of delicate negotiations with the Ford Motor Company as the union navigated the big downturn in the U.S. auto industry and the big concessions demanded from the union.
Harley Shaiken, a University of California-Berkley labor expert, said King had emerged as the logical choice to succeed Gettlefinger.
The defeat of a series of proposed contract changes by Ford workers this fall was blamed on the mixed messages flowing from Ford executives rather than King’s handling of the contract proposals. Ford executives were touting the company’s comeback at the same time they were demanding new concessions from workers. Not surprisingly, union dissidents successfully exploited the fact the company appeared to be speaking out of both sides of its mouth.
Gettlefinger won’t officially relinquish the union’s presidency at the UAW’s next convention in June, but King is expected to play a more active role as a union spokesperson.
Critics maintain that the union has been too passive in public relations matters as the American middle class continues to be decimated as job losses grow during the ongoing Great Recession, the longest and deepest in post-war history.
King’s nomination by the “Administration Caucus” also underscored the relatively secretive process by which the union selects its top officers.