Jun 14, 2010
For the first time in 18 years, the hold of the so-called “administration caucus” over the UAW has been challenged. Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committeeman from Ford and one of the leaders of the movement to reject concessions, is to be nominated for the presidency of the union in its convention to be held this week in Detroit.
Walkowicz told the Detroit Free Press that the big NO vote against further concessions at Ford was one of the reasons he decided to run.
He went on to say that he had few illusions about the outcome of the election, but he was making this effort in order “to give a voice to workers in the UAW who really do not agree with what has happened in the last couple of years with concessions.”
He was supported by some Ford delegates who themselves had played a role in the anti-concessions fight. They wrote that they believe the overwhelming NO vote at Ford “shows the membership wants a radical 180-degree change in direction by our union. We believe it should be the business of this convention to start that change by reasserting and going back to some basic union principles.” And they listed as principles, the need to refuse further concessions; to fight to get rid of all two-tier wages, an attack on future generations; to fight to restore the broken promises stolen from current retirees; and to make sure the membership had full control over every step in contract changes.
His candidacy was also supported by union militants who have led fights against concessions at their workplaces or tried to challenge the control wielded by the “administration caucus” for the last 60 years.
Gregg Shotwell, known for the role he has played in fighting the concessions drive at Delphi told Automotive News that “Gary’s audience won’t be the hundreds of UAW delegates in an air-conditioned Cobo Center. It will be the more than 100,000 active hourly workers on Detroit 3 factory floors. He’s really out to build resistance to further concessions during next year’s master contract negotiations.”
Jerry Tucker, who himself ran for the presidency of the union at the 1992 convention said, “Gary Walkowicz, whose voice spoke truth to power so eloquently during the Ford Contract reopener rejection vote, should command the respect of his delegate brothers and sisters who are being given this rare opportunity to lend their own voices to the reformation of a once proud union sorely in need of a new direction.”
Other well-known dissidents signaled their support for his candidacy, including Pete Kelley, long time president at the GM Tech Center, Bob Weissman, president at Chrysler’s Twinsburg Ohio plant and Wendy Thompson, president at GM’s Gear and Axle (later American Axle).
But perhaps the strongest comment on his candidacy came from several workers at his own plant, Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant, who told him, “Don’t say you can’t win. If people in this plant could vote, you would win.”