Regional UAW leader elected vice president of GM unit

Regional UAW leader elected vice president of GM unit

As Ashton moves up, Adams to take over

NEWS BUSINESS REPORTER

The change in leadership at the top of the United Auto Workers union is having a ripple effect among the union’s local leaders.

Joseph Ashton, director of the UAW’s Region 9, was elected Wednesday as vice president of the UAW’s General Motors Co. bargaining unit. Region 9, based in Amherst, covers Western and Central New York, plus New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania.

Ashton’s promotion opened the door for the election of Scott Adams, assistant Region 9 director, as regional director.

Adams was elected to the post Wednesday by delegates at the UAW’s convention in Detroit, who also elected Bob King, a lawyer and longtime union negotiator, as the union’s president.

More than 2,000 UAW members supported King in Wednesday’s hourlong roll-call vote. He succeeds Ron Gettelfinger, 65, who is stepping down after eight years in the position because of an age limit set by the union. Unless that policy changes, the 63-year-old King is expected to serve just one four-year term.

King is scheduled to address delegates today. He has declined to detail his priorities until the vote but has specified increasing union membership as one of his goals. The 75-year-old union has dropped to 355,000 active members from a peak of 1.5 million in 1979.

King faced limited opposition from Gary Walkowicz, a Detroit-area Ford Motor Co. worker who led a successful drive against cutbacks at Ford last fall. The union, he said, made too many wage and benefit concessions as Detroit’s automakers restructured.

Ashton, who took over as Region 9 director in June 2006, succeeds the retiring Cal Rapson, a member of the UAW’s executive committee from Flint, Mich.

Adams has been part of the Western New York auto industry for nearly four decades, beginning his career at Ford Motor Co.’s Buffalo Stamping Plant in Hamburg. He served as president of UAW Local 897, which represents workers at the stamping plant, for two terms.

Adams joined the UAW Region 9 staff in 1997 and served as an international representative and education director before becoming Buffalo-area director in 2006. He became the assistant regional director in January 2009, following the retirement of Kevin Donovan.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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