An unusually contentious UAW national convention elected Bob King the union's new president but sent him out with a clear message to restore lost benefits.
Union dissident Gary Walkowicz ran against King for the presidency with the understanding that he could not prevail against an administrative caucus slate that always wins election.
King, 63, easily won the vote Wednesday, June 16.
No caucus-endorsed candidate for president had faced opposition since 1992.
But Walkowicz, 61, said he delivered a message from Ford Motor Co.'s rank and file that they're angry about concessions and are willing to fight to get benefits back, even if it means a strike next year.
The UAW will start master contract talks with the Detroit 3 early next year for contracts that expire in September.
Walkowicz said: "Ford workers haven't lost the right to strike, and many have told me they're ready to use it, if necessary."
Walkowicz is a bargaining committeeman at Local 600 at Ford's Dearborn Truck plant in suburban Detroit.
King felt the wrath of Ford's rank and file last fall when he tried to push additional concessions, including a no-strike clause, to bring the automaker's labor agreement in line with lower-cost contracts provided to General Motors and Chrysler.
Ford workers defeated the concessions by 3-to-1 in anticipation of Ford profits that subsequently materialized.
King, an electrician with a law degree, rose through the ranks in 40 years at the UAW.
He succeeds two-term President Ron Gettelfinger, 65, who has retired.