Automotive News reports new United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams let it be known before the 1,100 delegates at the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention in Detroit that the union’s focus will be on contract negotiations with the Detroit Three in 2015, and the national elections of 2014 and 2016. Regarding the former, Williams proclaimed that the time for making concessions had come to an end, vowing to fight on for workers’ rights and social and economic justice. He also addressed the leadership history of the union, providing examples of the challenges each president has had to face during their term, even if the answers left the membership confused at first.
After the convention closed, Williams gave a press conference detailing what the union will specifically do during his tenure as president, including an intensified focus on organizing the transplants in the Southeastern United States. That effort will be led in Tennessee — where the union lost a contentious election to organize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga in February of this year — by new UAW secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel. The president also hinted at pushing the union toward economic efficiency with its organizing budget, and vowed to take down the two-tier wage system holding a quarter of the 390,000 members working in on the floors of the Detroit Three underneath the rest of the rolls. No specifics were given for either strategy.
Finally, Detroit Free Press reports after Williams finished his speech, he led the delegates out of Cobo Center to join UniteHere Local 24 members on their first day of protest at the Crown Plaza Hotel across the street. Recording secretary Janee Ayers claimed the hotel had hired temporary employees and paying “poverty wages” instead of the $14 per hour average hotel employees make in Detroit. Williams added that no one from the UAW or any labor union would not “do any business” with hotel until its management allows the workers to organize.