Regional director, accountant Gary Jones slated to become next UAW president
DETROIT -- Gary Jones, a UAW regional director and certified public accountant, is slated to become the union's next president.
The UAW Administrative Caucus -- consisting of national and local officers and members -- on Thursday in Detroit selected Jones as its choice to lead the union beginning in June. The decision is unconventional, if not unprecedented, as open presidential seats have historically been filled by a vice president or secretary-treasurer.
Jones, 60, will stand for election at the UAW's convention in June. If elected, Jones would succeed Dennis Williams, 64, a one-term UAW president who is retiring because union policy prohibits candidates from running for office if they are 65 or older.
The change comes at a pivotal time for the union, which this year lost two organizing drives and is at the center of a federal probe involving $4.5 million in worker training funds allegedly being siphoned to line the pockets of union officials and at least two Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives.
"The caucus tends to get the leadership they need at the time they need it," said Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry, labor and economics group at the Center for Automotive Research.
Jones, who lives in O’Fallon, Mo., near St. Louis, became a UAW member when he was hired at a now-shuttered Ford Motor Co. glass plant in Broken Arrow, Okla., in 1975. In 1990, former UAW President Owen Bieber and then-Secretary-Treasurer Bill Casstevens appointed Jones to the UAW International staff. He was assigned to the union’s accounting department, where he was later named chief accountant.
Jones was chosen as director of UAW Region 5, headquartered in Hazelwood, Mo., also near St. Louis, during a special election in October 2012. He was re-elected in June 2014.
Aside from having a financial background, Jones could help with the union's organizing efforts outside the Midwest. As director of the union's Region 5, he oversees 17 states in the western and southwestern U.S. -- from Missouri and Texas to California and Hawaii.
Change in the guard
Among other leadership changes, Ford-UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, 67, also will retire because of age restrictions.
The caucus chose Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel and Vice President Cindy Estrada, who oversees the union's General Motors department, to stand for re-election alongside regional directors Rory Gamble and Terry Dittes. They also will have to be formally elected next year.
Gamble, director of UAW Region 1A in the Detroit area, is a welder fixture repairman who joined the UAW in 1974 with Ford Motor Co. He was first elected to lead the region in June 2006.
Dittes, director of UAW Region 9 on the East Coast, became a UAW member when he was hired at the Fisher Body Plant in Trenton, N.J., in 1978. Dittes was first elected director of Region 9 in March 2014.
The vice presidents' company assignments are determined following the election.
UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, who oversees the union's FCA department, will not seek re-election for a second term. The union said he will retire along with UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner.
Jewell, 60, has not been publicly named or charged in the federal investigation, but The Detroit News in August reported he received a $2,180 shotgun bought with union training center funds as a birthday present.
The UAW has said Jewell paid for the gun after finding out it was bought with the training funds.
Feds say Jewell's predecessor, the late General Holiefield, was a key figure in the alleged illegal activities along with FCA's former top negotiator, Alphons Iacobelli. The case has led to criminal charges against four people, including Iacobelli and Holiefield's widow, Monica Morgan.
Jewell, who rose through the ranks working for GM, also faced the most contentious contract ratification during 2015 collective bargaining with the Detroit 3. The union's FCA members became the first since 1982 to vote down a tentative deal.
This month, workers at Chinese-owned Fuyao Glass Industry Group voted by nearly a 2-1 ratio against union representation, which would have covered roughly 1,500 plant workers.
The defeat came three months after workers at Nissan's Canton, Miss., assembly plant also rejected unionization, adding another tally to the UAW's decadeslong quest to organize foreign automakers' assembly plants in the South.
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