Autoworkers Union Elects New Leader The UAW elected a new president in Detroit this week. Retiring President Ron Gettelfinger guided the union through the recent auto industry crisis, making major concessions to struggling U.S. automakers. Some UAW members think that Gettelfinger gave up too much, and that the union should focus on getting something back. But others think the UAW needs to take a new approach to business.
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Autoworkers Union Elects New Leader

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Autoworkers Union Elects New Leader

Autoworkers Union Elects New Leader

Autoworkers Union Elects New Leader

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The UAW elected a new president in Detroit this week. Retiring President Ron Gettelfinger guided the union through the recent auto industry crisis, making major concessions to struggling U.S. automakers. Some UAW members think that Gettelfinger gave up too much, and that the union should focus on getting something back. But others think the UAW needs to take a new approach to business.

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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