The UAW has new leadership, but an old problem to clean up before negotiations begin next year on new labor agreements with the Detroit 3.
An ongoing corruption investigation has driven a wedge between the union's leadership and its rank and file, and unless new UAW President Gary Jones moves to seal that rift quickly, the effect on the 2019 talks could disrupt the U.S. auto industry.
The UAW's rank and file must believe that its elected representatives have the membership's best interests at heart and that they are not illegally beholden to or conspiring with company officials to advance a narrower self-interest. Without that, members' skepticism will quickly turn to cynicism, making ratification of any agreement more difficult and stripping negotiators of their ability to bargain effectively.
One need only look at members' rejection of the first tentative agreement reached in 2015 with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as proof of how negotiations can go horribly wrong.
There is only one proven way for Jones and his team to restore trust with membership: transparency.
The UAW needs to get its house in order quickly — and openly — if its leadership is to repair the schism with its members.