Autoworkers Union Elects New Leader
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports.
SARAH CWIEK: The UAW returned to its birthplace to elect new leaders after one of the most turbulent periods in its 75-year history. Addressing convention delegates in his last speech as president, Ron Gettelfinger decried the smear tactics of what he termed right wing, anti-union lawmakers and pundits, who he says would have destroyed U.S. auto industry just to punish the UAW.
RON GETTELFINGER: Their rhetoric has become a drumbeat of anti-union chatter. It has no merit but it continues to shape and form opinions against union.
CWIEK: Cathy Abney, a delegate from Walkowicz's Detroit area local, told convention- goers the union needs to take on a tougher edge.
CATHY ABNEY: Our union faces a huge crisis, a real emergency brought on by past policies. We need to do a radical 180 degree turn...
(SOUNDBITE OF BOOING)
ABNEY: ...turn away from concessions.
CWIEK: That didn't go over well and Walkowicz was trounced by King. His supporters taut him as a passionate organizer with a global vision. But policy- wise, King hasn't said much to indicate that he'll be that different from Gettelfinger.
(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATIONS)
CWIEK: Outside the downtown Detroit Convention Center in a sea of smokers, Al Tiller, a delegate from UAW Local 1005 in Cleveland, says Gettelfinger did what he needed to do to keep U.S. automakers alive. But Tiller thinks they're rounding the corner.
AL TILLER: Why we took a lot of concessions is last time to keep General Motors open. You know, they start getting profitable again, I think we need some of that stuff back.
CWIEK: Joseph Jackson has a slightly different view. A delegate from Local 2164 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Jackson says the UAW needs to shed some bad habits.
JOSEPH JACKSON: You have to look at it as a get the most efficient with the least amount of people as you possibly can.
CWIEK: For NPR News, I'm Sarah Cwiek in Detroit.
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