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UAW convention.

UAW convention

The paramount issue confronting delegates to the United Auto Workers triennial convention was whether to continue moving toward a more cooperative relationship with management or reverting to the more adversarial approach that prevailed prior to the 1980's. In his keynote speech, union president Owen Bieber defended the current strategy, explaining, "Our participation is motivated by only one consideration: the universal desire of workers to have a say over their jobs and to have a more satisfying and secure situation at work." He also assured the delegates that the union would not hesitate to call strikes or withdraw from cooperative relationships that deteriorate, saying, "where the power of persuasion fails, we will use the persuasion of power without hesitation."

The call for a more adversarial relationship with management, which had been developing well before the convention, was centered in a group of the union's members named "New Directions," led by Jerry Tucker, a regional director of the union. New Directions contended that the cooperative approaches--which generally give employees a greater voice in plant operation in return for broadening and rotating job assignments--are too often dominated by management, resulting in increased output without commensurate benefit to employees.

After some contentious discussions, the delegates backed the current policy by a wide margin. Backing of the current policy was also indicated by the unopposed reelection of Bieber and other union leaders by acclamation, by election of a Bieber-backed candidate to succeed Tucker, and by approval of a plan to press management to accept union officers as members of their boards of directors. (Currently, only Bieber is a director, at Chrysler Corp.) In other election matters involving union vice presidents, Donald F. Ephlin retired and Steven Yokich succeeded him as head of the General Motors Corp. Department, Ernest Lofton succeeded Yokich as head of the Ford Motor Co. Department, and Stan Marshall succeeded Marc Stepp, who retired as head of the Chrysler Corp. Department.

Despite the defeat, Tucker and other New Directions leaders contended that their effort was useful because it will increase scrutiny of current and future labor-management cooperative efforts, possibly resulting in better terms for employees. The leaders also vowed to continue their organization and to hold a meeting convention when the union conducts a special convention in preparation for 1990 collective bargaining with the three auto manufacturers.

Plans for reversing the Auto Workers' decline in membership and increasing its collective bargaining and political strength were presented to the convention in "A Strong Union in a Changing World," a report prepared by The Commission on the Future of the UAW. The Commission, consisting of union officials and rank-and file members, was authorized at the 1986 commission.

The report, which included a call for closer study of labor-management cooperative programs by the union's International Executive Board, also indicated that the union must emphasize the organizing of white-collar and service workers because of the changing economy and increase its appeal to the general public through campaigns in the media and schools. In May 1989, the Auto Workers had 966,000 members, compared with 1.5 million in 1979.

In a legal matter following the June convention, Tucker, in a complaint filed with the Department of Labor, charged that union officers had improperly aided Roy Wyse in his drive to replace Tucker as head of District 5.
COPYRIGHT 1989 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:developments in industrial relations; United Automobile Workers
Author:Ruben, George
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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