DETROIT — Rory Gamble, the 13th president of the UAW, who inherited a union in crisis and helped avert a federal takeover after prosecutors proved his two predecessors were corrupt, has elected to retire a year early.
Gamble on Friday informed the union's International Executive Board of his decision -- effective June 30 -- which he has been considering for months. Even if he wanted to continue in the role, a longstanding tradition of officers not running for reelection after they turn 65 years old would have prohibited Gamble, 65, from seeking another term.
"I said on Day One I would hand over the keys to this treasured institution as a clean union," Gamble said in a statement. "My original intent as a UAW Vice President was to retire at the end of June 2021, and after looking at the progress we have made and the best interests of UAW members for a stable transfer of power, this is the right time for me to turn over the reins."
While the UAW did not immediately announce a successor, Gamble said he hopes his retirement will usher in a period of multiple term presidents for the UAW. The Detroit News has reported that Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry is under consideration to replace Gamble because he could serve multiple terms.
"You need time to settle in and look at the long-range focus and priorities of our membership," Gamble said. "Especially in this time of vast technological change."
Gamble, the union's first Black president, was thrust into the role on an interim basis in late 2019 after ex-President Gary Jones abruptly resigned. Jones has since pleaded guilty to embezzlement in federal court and earlier this month was sentenced to 28 months in prison.
Gamble dropped the interim tag in early 2020 and began a series of financial reforms aimed at avoiding a federal takeover amid the worsening corruption scandal.
He eventually agreed to meet with former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, then the lead prosecutor on the case, and the two connected.
The feds and union ultimately settled on a six-year oversight period that allows the union to retain control. As part of the oversight, a special referendum, if passed, would move the union to a one-member, one-vote model, giving members more of a say in electing leaders.
'Good friend over the years'
Gamble joined the UAW in 1974, when he was hired at Ford Motor Co.'s Dearborn Frame Plant as a welder fixture repairman. He has held a number of union leadership roles over the years, most recently vice president of the UAW-Ford Department before he became president.
"Rory has been a good friend over the years, and he is someone I have always trusted," Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement Friday. "He is a tough but fair leader, cares deeply about the industry and Ford, and has shown his commitment to his UAW colleagues throughout his career.
"Together we have faced many challenges, from the tragedy of the Rouge Powerhouse explosion to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. But we have also celebrated important moments including the rebirth of the Rouge complex and our recent F-150 Lightning reveal.
"His leadership will be missed, and we wish Rory the best in his retirement."
Gamble is not the only UAW leader electing to retire before the end of their term. Last month, Gerald Kariem, vice president of the UAW-Ford Department, said he would step down effective June 30.
His replacement will be named at a later date.