DETROIT -- UAW President Gary Jones on Wednesday rallied membership around a "we are one" message, as he told hundreds of union members at a bargaining convention that he is reforming the union and they are ready to fight in upcoming contract talks with automakers.
Jones, who was elected president of the union in June, said reform isn't easy, but it is important to "strengthen your trust in us." He didn't offer details but said more would be shared in upcoming months.
The UAW has been embroiled in a scandal over the misuse of funds from a training center jointly operated by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the union dating back several years. So far, seven people including two former FCA employees and five people affiliated with the union have been charged and pleaded guilty in the case, but more charges are expected as the government's investigation continues.
The union approved a bargaining resolution at the convention that includes provisions for "health care, job security, better wages, better working conditions, a retirement that you can live on, pensions that you can count on and some new things as well," Jones said. One new thing will be a battle over automakers' use of temporary workers instead of hiring permanent workers.
Bargaining for new contracts for Ford Motor Co., General Motors and FCA auto workers will begin this summer, and contracts are set to expire in mid-September. Talks aren't expected to be easy, as GM and Ford are restructuring and GM has announced plans to not allocate future products to five plants.
On Monday, the union announced it has boosted the weekly strike pay for members by $50 to $250, effective immediately, and will raise it to $275 beginning in January. UAW members also receive health care coverage if there is a strike.
Jones on Wednesday indicated a strike is possible.
"We are gearing up," he said. "We are preparing for a conflict."
But he said that battle may not come if automakers see how serious and ready the union is to fight.
"We are one, we are one," Jones and members chanted.
The last significant UAW strike took place in 2007 when about 73,000 workers walked out at GM for two days over health care. At the time, it was the union's first national strike against GM since 1970. but said more would be shared in upcoming months.