New UAW Chief Takes Office With Full War Chest

Officers get 31% raise after rank-and-file gets dues hike.

by on Jun.15, 2018

Newly elected UAW President Gary Jones acknowledges the crowd at the union's quadrennial meeting.

The United Auto Workers installed a new president this week as Gary Jones replaced Dennis Williams in the corner office at union headquarters in Solidarity House in Detroit.

During its quadrennial Constitutional Convention, the union also installed a new Secretary Treasurer, Ray Curry, and one new vice president Rory Gamble.

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Jones had been part of the UAW’s financial staff at union headquarters during for several years before returning to his home region in the western United States to serve two terms as a regional director and as a member of the union’s executive board before becoming the candidate of the union’s administration caucus, which controls all of the levers of power inside the union.

One of the most contentious bits of business to come up on the agenda was a dues increase. The union constitution was amended by a vote of 2014 Convention to raise the dues for the first time in decades from the equivalent to the wages for two hours per month to 2.5 hours per month. Dues of salaried employees were also raised by a corresponding about 1.44%.

(UAW, FCA head to court to retrieve stolen funds. Click Here for the story.)

The amendment approved this week said the dues will be rolled back to two hours once the “Strike and Defense Fund” reaches $850 million. It currently holds more than $729 million, but four years ago had dropped to less than $600 million. The fund also was used to bankroll high profile organizing drives at Volkswagen and Nissan on the theory that greater union membership across the industry helps protect the wages of all auto workers.

After the changes in dues payment, the convention also approved the raises for top officers. The pay of the president was boosted by 31% to $200,657 from $153,248. The salary of international representatives was boosted 6% to $111,000.

Overall, the union is in good shape financially thanks to action taken by outgoing board and has operated in the black for the past three years after the budget cut ordered by Williams, Jones said. One sign of the UAW’s return to financial health thanks to the steady employment in the auto industry is that the union is no longer contemplating selling off its Black Lake retreat in Northern Michigan. In fact, Williams said it was being modernized.

Jones also said during his press conference that the union’s organizing department will report directly to him. It will be up to Jones to decide whether to move forward on the organizing effort at Tesla and to work out the strategy for the ongoing efforts at Nissan in Canton, Mississippi, and at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the union is defending the plants skilled trades unit, which voted to join the UAW more than two years. Volkswagen of America has refused to bargain with the unit, claiming it should not be separate from other VW workers at the Chattanooga plant.

(Click Here for more about the UAW overlooking Schrade’s role in union, U.S. history.)

During the leadership shuffle at union headquarters at Solidarity House, the union lost the services of Gary Casteel, who led the union drives at both Volkswagen, where the union scored its first partial victory in the South and at Nissan where a scandal involving the management of joint funds helped scuttle the union drive last summer.

The union also lost Julie Kushner, the union’s regional director in New England who stepped down to run for public office in Connecticut. Kushner was instrumental in the union’s effort to organize graduate students and other academic workers at universities such Harvard and New York University.

Meanwhile, UAW-FCA training fund scandal continues to haunt the union. Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice said it believed the union as institution had been culpable in the scandal.

The assessment is based on the plea deal signed last month by Michael Brown, FCA’s Director for Employee Relations from 2009 to 2016, and Michael Brown, who admitted to concealing illegal company payoffs to the UAW. The prosecutors’ said that “FCA executives conspired with one another, with FCA, with officials at the UAW, and with the UAW, to violate the Labor Management Relations Act, the DOJ said in a court filing.

In his plea deal Brown said that the illegal payments were “political gifts” to the UAW. Their purpose was “to grease the skids in order to obtain benefits.”

(To see more about the UAW membership increase in 2017, Click Here.)

Jones, however, issued a stiff rebuttal to the claim, saying the wrongdoing uncovered by the federal probe was work of individuals and not the institution. The union has already taken steps to get rid of the culpable employees, he added.

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