Presidential candidacy of UAW dissident enlivens upcoming convention

Next week's predicted to be uneventful UAW national convention in Detroit just got eventful.

Union dissident Gary Walkowicz at Ford's Dearborn Truck plant announced that he would challenge shoo-in Bob King to succeed Ron Gettelfinger as president of the UAW.

Walkowicz, a 61-year-old bargaining committeeman, is sanguine about his chances. He concedes that he can't win.

But he intends to use his candidacy as a platform to oppose additional concessions and warn against what he views as an increasingly cozy relationship between the international and the car companies.

His audience won't be the hundreds of UAW delegates in an air-conditioned Cobo Center. It will be the more than 100,000 active hourly workers on Detroit 3 factory floors, said fellow dissident Gregg Shotwell.

"He's really out to build resistance to further concessions during next year's master contract negotiations," Shotwell said. "He'll be talking to a rank-and-file that otherwise wouldn't care what happens at this convention."

It was Walkowicz last autumn who led the successful grassroots campaign to stop additional concessions that King negotiated with Ford to try to bring benefits down to better deals at General Motors and Chrysler.

That defeated agreement also had a no-strike clause, like those instituted at GM and Chrysler.

The preservation of that strike option is key to insisting on a restoration of lost benefits at a newly profitable Ford, Shotwell said.