UAW President – No Concessions

New UAW president, Dennis Williams, facing declining membership and a recent failed organizing campaign, vows to tolerate no concessions in future negotiations.  United Auto Worker rank and file members believe Williams can turn the union’s fortunes after UAW bosses were defeated in an organizing campaign at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Management remained neutral throughout the campaign.  The workers, however, voted uinon representation down, a signifigant loss for UAW union bosses.  Karl Henkel has the story in the Detroit News.

Newly elected United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams urged members Thursday to join the fight to “take back” the country that has been “handcuffed by extremists.”

Williams, 61, elected Wednesday to replace outgoing president Bob King, also said its time for the union to stand up and accept no more concessions in negotiations with corporations.

But during his 30-minute speech in front of more than 1,000 elected union delegates, Williams did not specifically mention eliminating the controversial two-tier wage system — one of the top reasons many delegates said they voted for the former Marine.

The new UAW president addressed the subject during a press conference later in the afternoon, reiterating a previous statement that he wants to “bridge the gap” of the two-tier wage structure.

Williams, during his speech, sent a strong message to companies — including the Detroit automakers — that he will expect them to share more of their recent profit gains with union members.

“It’s time for each and every one of us to tell our corporations no more concessions,” he said. “We’re tired of this.

“I don’t want anybody to misread what I’m saying; I want to work closely with the companies as long as it doesn’t hurt our members. I also want to tell them, I do not like confrontation, but I am not afraid of confrontation.”

Detroit automakers in 2007 pushed for the two-tier wage system as a way to cut costs.

Veteran workers make about $28 an hour, but newer workers, doing the same job have a starting wage about half that amount and their top hourly pay is capped at $19.

Chrysler and Fiat SpA CEO Sergio Marchionne has said he wants to end the two-tier wage structure, and recently said he wants to begin negotiating a new contract with the UAW this month — more than a year before the current contract with the union ends. But Williams said Thursday the union isn’t quite ready to sit down at the bargaining table.

Williams expressed the need for better communication within the union, something officials tried to improve on when discussing the recent union dues hike, which passed Tuesday. Union members in August will begin paying dues equal to two-and-a-half hours of monthly pay, up from two hours.

Union officials for more than six months floated the idea of the dues increase and visited local union shops to gather the opinions of members.

Williams urged members to vote in upcoming elections — including Senate and House races and the presidential race in 2016.