Ford worker to challenge King for UAW presidency

June 9, 2010

Ford worker to challenge King for UAW presidency

The Detroit News

A United Auto Workers dissident will challenge UAW Vice President Bob King for the presidency at the union’s Constitutional Convention next week in Detroit.

Gary Walkowicz, 61, a 35-year veteran at Ford Motor Co. and a longtime bargaining committeeman at Ford’s Dearborn Truck plant, today began informing members of Local 600 in Dearborn that he intends to run for president. Walkowicz concedes he is a long shot to win, but his nomination might force a roll call vote on the convention floor.

The last roll call vote was forced in 1992, when UAW executive board member Jerry Tucker unsuccessfully contested Owen Bieber’s re-election. The last before then was 1972.

The UAW’s executive board, which includes President Ron Gettelfinger, has endorsed King, 63, to become the union’s next president.

"The main reason" to run "is to give voice to the many members who are dissatisfied with the direction of the union," Walkowicz said today.

Walkowicz and several other UAW members say many rank-and-file members are weary of concessions after several years of painful wage and benefit givebacks.

Last fall, King was booed during a speech at the Dearborn Truck plant in the Rouge facility when he tried to convince members to accept more concessions in an amended proposal to the Ford Motor Co. contract. Workers soundly rejected those measures that King and other UAW national leaders endorsed.

In a speech last month at the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, King argued that UAW workers should expect to be rewarded when the auto industry bounces back.

UAW members agreed to give up between $7,000 to $30,000 a year in wages and benefits to help Detroit’s Big Three survive over the past decade, King said at the time.

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