For UAW, the more things change …
A lot has changed since UAW officials from plants and offices around the country last gathered in Detroit for a constitutional convention four years ago.
The president they elected almost unanimously at that convention, Gary Jones — who had promised a “clean slate” to move the union past a federal corruption scandal — wound up in prison, as did his predecessor, Dennis Williams.
The UAW narrowly avoided being taken over by the federal government by making a deal that puts it under the oversight of a court-appointed monitor for six years.
And rank-and-file members approved a referendum that gives them the power to vote for the union’s next leaders directly. That means the decision of whether to keep current President Ray Curry in office for four more years won’t be up to those attending this week’s constitutional convention; the members they’ll report back to next weekend get to make that choice.
But one thing that unfortunately hasn’t changed since the June 2018 gathering is that the UAW remains enveloped in a cloud of scandal. A report from federal monitor Neil Barofsky just days ahead of the convention suggested that the union has obstructed and interfered with efforts to root out corruption, as reporter Michael Martinez explains in a front-page story in this week’s Automotive News.
Barofsky said he now has 19 different investigations underway into potentially shady dealings within the UAW and that top officials started cooperating only after he resurrected the prospect of a federal takeover for violating the union’s consent decree.
Like four years ago, there will undoubtedly be talk this week about cleaning up the union and getting rid of the so-called bad apples sullying its name. Let’s hope the people making those promises follow through this time. And that they don’t turn out to be some of the bad apples themselves.
In Monday’s Automotive News:
GM’s EV transition is the real deal: General Motors’ electrification plans are beginning to come to fruition. After rolling out high-end electric vehicles first, GM will have launched at least three mass-market EVs powered by its Ultium batteries by the end of next year. By 2026, the automaker could have close to a dozen mass-market options. A year later, GM will begin working with Honda Motor Co. to develop millions of affordable EVs. GM’s North American production map will match its EV ramp-up, with half likely to build EVs by 2026. The EV transition is real, executives say, but internal combustion vehicles will continue to be necessary.
We’re hiring! Ever since Honda put its Marysville plant in the middle of a field in rural Ohio, automakers have been attracted to – and state economic development officials have touted – greenfields and smaller towns in the U.S. for new assembly plants. And that has been great for decades. But now there’s a problem that didn’t really exist before: historically low unemployment means automakers (and the suppliers that locate near them) are trying to attract and retain workers to keep their plants running and getting competition from Amazon warehouses, fast food restaurants and other employers all trying to do the same thing from a very, very limited pool of workers. We visited Volkwagen’s Chattanooga complex and Toyota’s plant in Princeton, Ind. (both trying to hire third shifts of workers right now), and others involved in the industry about the difficulties of hiring in this labor environment.
Volkswagen’s disruptor-in-chief runs out of road: Herbert Diess set Tesla as VW’s benchmark, not traditional rivals such as Toyota or GM, but his habit of speaking his mind upset key people.
VW’s Keogh goes Scout-ing: Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh will leave the brand and take over as the first CEO of the German automaker’s nascent Scout EV unit. Pablo Di Si, who has headed VW’s South American region, becomes CEO of Volkswagen Group of America and CEO of Volkswagen North American Region.
Carvana suspended in Illinois again: Carvana is again prohibited from selling used vehicles in Illinois after the Secretary of State Police reinstated a temporary suspension. The state says the online seller has been issuing car buyers temporary registration permits from outside Illinois, not using a licensed third-party to transfer titles and not processing the registration paperwork through the Secretary of State’s office.
UAW monitor issues harsh report: The UAW’s court-appointed monitor said union leaders have been so uncooperative in efforts to root out corruption — including in 19 open investigations — that Department of Justice officials in March were called in to intervene over potential violations of the union’s consent decree. The UAW said it remains committed to rebuilding trust, creating robust reforms and transforming its culture.
July 25, 1932: Diego Rivera begins painting the Detroit Industry murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts that depict Ford Motor Co.’s Rouge industrial complex. His patron? Edsel Ford I.