UAW elects new leader Gary Jones to face contract talks, federal investigation

United Automobile Workers (UAW)

The union that represents factory employees at the Detroit Three automakers elected regional director Gary Jones as its new president on Wednesday, before tough 2019 contract talks possible to coincide with decreasing U.S. sales of new vehicles.

United Auto Workers authorities gathered in a balloon-filled convention hall in Detroit elected Jones, before the union’s Region 5 covering 17 western and southwestern states, to a four-year term as UAW president.

Jones, a certified public accountant, will have to head the once powerful union through an extending U.S. Justice Department investigation into alleged misspending at UAW union training centers, along with contract negotiations next year with General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The UAW represents an estimated of 140,000 employees at the Detroit automakers.

In March, in a significant embarrassment for the union, a past official on the UAW committee that negotiated a 2015 labor agreement with FCA was charged with accepting non-legal payments from a senior executive of the automaker.

Federal prosecutors also alleged in a May 25 court document that leading FCA and UAW officials conspired to breach U.S. labor laws, adding that a former FCA executive knew bribes paid to union leaders were designed to “grease the skids” in labor negotiations.

Jones, 60, joined the UAW in 1975. At the time he was hired at a Ford Motor plant located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. He has worked for the union in different roles since 1990.

UAW membership has crept up since the end of the 2007-2009 recession, however is about half of what it was in 1998 and much below a peak of 1.5 million members in 1979.

The UAW stated in March that its membership increased 35 percent in last years, but union dues payments decreased 4 percent from 2016.

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