UAW Keeps an Eye on GM Board Seat

Union not giving up spot its coveted for 40 years.

by on Dec.21, 2017

UAW President Dennis Williams told the media that the union will be looking to reclaim its seat on GM's board of directors.

The United Auto Workers plans to reclaim a seat on the General Motors Board of Directors, according to UAW President Dennis Williams.

At UAW headquarters in Detroit, Williams told reporters this week that the union’s executive board will meet early next year.

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Williams also said he plans to take up filling the seat with Voluntary Employees Benefit Association, the multibillion dollar trust fund that pays for the health care insurance of blue-collar workers, who retired from GM before the 2008-09 recession.

As part of the federal bailout of GM in 2009, the VEBA got a large block of stock in the new GM. The VEBA’s professional investment managers have diversified the fund’s holdings. However, the fund continues to hold a large block of GM shares, hence its claims on a seat on automaker’s board of directors.

The VEBA’s holdings also helped GM’s board beat back a attempt last spring to split restructure GM’s shares into two classes. With GM looking a expanding its holdings in mobility services and autonomous vehicles, calls re-engineering GM’s capital structure are likely to increase in the future.

(UAW President rips Ford for moving EV production to Mexico. Click Herefor the story.)

Former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton resigned from the General Motors' Board of Directors as federal investigators.

Williams said he expects companies such as Ford Motor Co. and GM “to diversify” their offerings in the years to come. However, he also said he doesn’t expect them to “walk away” from their basic business of buildings cars and trucks. The business is too important and too lucrative, Williams added, echoing remarks by GM CEO Mary Barra, who said she expects GM to continue building cars and trucks for years to come.

A seat on the GM board has long been a goal of the union, going back more than 40 years and it has become an important way for the union to keep track of and to influence on the company’s strategic direction and plans.

Williams emphasized that he meets with Barra on a regular basis and has a good understanding of the company’s strategy. However, it also apparent that the union considers the seat an important asset, particularly since Williams spent 11 years as a UAW nominated member of the board of directors of Navistar.

Until earlier this month, former UAW vice president Joe Ashton had served on the GM board. Ashton, however, resigned abruptly. Williams noted that Ashton, who moved back to his native New Jersey after his retirement from union office, had been talking about stepping aside for some time because he wanted to spend more time at home.

GM’s board meets monthly and also usually now schedules one meeting each year in China. In addition, the federal investigation into the joint, union-management training funds had begun to take up additional time.

(Click Here for details about Ashton’s departure.)

Ashton, however, has not been charged with any wrongdoing while he had a voice in managing the GM fund.

The investigations at GM and Ford began after the FBI and Department of Justice found that more than $2 million had been siphoned off from the training fund at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles by company and union officials. Alphonse Iacobelli, former FCA vice president of labor relations, and Monica Holiefield, the widow of former UAW vice president and head of the union’s Chrysler Department General Holiefield have been indicted on federal charges of embezzlement and conspiracy.

Williams confirmed the union has hired outside law firms to conduct the union’s own internal investigation of the joint funds and their management. “I have more lawyers than I have ever had before,” Williams said. “When someone uses our goodwill to pocket money for themselves,” that’s wrong, Williams added.

Williams also announced that Norwood Jewell, the current head of the union’s Chrysler Department, has announced his resignation effective Dec. 31.

Jewell had been passed over last month when the union’s “administrative caucus” announced its nominees for the union’s top offices at the UAW next Constitutional Convention in June 2018. Nomination by the caucus is tantamount to election and Jewell would have been out of office by next June.

(Is the ground collapsing under the UAW? For more, Click Here.)

In addition, Jewell had been touched by the scandal last summer when the Department of Justice disclosed that he had accepted an expensive shotgun purchased with money from the joint training funds. Jewell later reimbursed the fund, saying he didn’t know the money for the gun came from the fund. Jewell has not been charged with any wrongdoing but has been castigated by union members on social media.

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