UAW President Rory Gamble, who led the union through a scandal that sent two of his immediate predecessors to prison, announced he plans to retire June 30.
Gamble, who recently had operations on both of his knees and lost close friends and relatives to COVID-19, contemplated retirement for some time but has put off announcing his departure. But he finally reached the point where he felt it best to resign, according to sources familiar with his decision.
Gamble informed staff at noon Friday he had notified the UAW International Executive Board (IEB) that he will retire at the end of June. Under the UAW Constitution, the IEB will elect a successor to serve the remainder of the term through June 2022.
“I said on Day One I would hand over the keys to this treasured institution as a clean union,” said Gamble, 65. “My original intent as a UAW Vice President was to retire at the end of June 2021, and after looking at the progress we have made and the best interests of UAW members for a stable transfer of power, this is the right time for me to turn over the reins,” he said.
Monitor to oversee new union elections
Gamble’s retirement comes at at time when an outside monitor is making arrangements for a vote among the union’s 425,000 members on whether to amend the UAW’s constitution, opening the door for the direct election of top officers, including the president, or stick with the same delegate and convention system that has been in place since the late 1940s.
The delegate-convention system has concentrated power inside the union in a few hands and is at the root of the corruption that has rocked the union in recent years, according to David Gardey, the assistant U.S. Attorney responsible for investigation public corruption in the Eastern District of Michigan.
The new monitor, who was brought in to oversee the union’s internal elections, is now preparing rules that will very likely curb the influence of the so-called Administration Caucus to which Gamble belonged and has dominated the UAW for more than 70 years.
Gamble previously said, despite the scandals that led to prison terms for former executive board colleagues such as Gary Jones and Dennis Williams, he does not believe the union should alter the constitution to allow for direct elections. The prospects of divisive and bitter fight about constitutional provisions also appears to have helped move Gamble towards retirement, observers said.
Looking to the future
In a statement, Gamble added he hopes his retirement will usher in a period of multiple-term presidents for the UAW. “You need time to settle in and look at the long-range focus and priorities of our membership,” he said. “Especially in this time of vast technological change.”
Gamble, though, will be remembered for steering the UAW through a comprehensive ethics reforms initiative and ultimately saving the union from a potential government takeover. He was also a leading voice in guiding the UAW and American manufacturing through the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic; navigating the semiconductor crisis; and UAW support for Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election.
Gamble said he intends to remain involved in community work after retiring including the Thaw Board.
“I’m blessed to be able to spend time with my family and continue to work giving back to the community,” said Gamble. “I’ll always look back on the sisters and brothers who together made my time in the UAW so special. And although I never intended to be UAW President, I hope that my chapter in our history will long be remembered for righting the ship, facing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic head on and saving lives, while setting up my union for a bright future. As a team we accomplished much to be proud of.”