If elected in June, Gettelfinger will succeed current UAW President Stephen Yokich who, at 66, is past the union’s mandatory retirement age.
Gettelfinger, who headed tough negotiations with Ford Motor Company, faces the prospect of leading the UAW into difficult negotiations with the big three automakers in 2003, with Ford in the midst of a restructuring effort and auto sales expected to fall to their lowest levels in a decade.
The new president will also face the problems of declining union membership. Membership rolls have halved since the UAW’s hey day in the 70s, when members totaled an estimated 732,000.
Foreign car manufacturers have set up plants in southern states, a region that the UAW has struggled to break into. Workers at a Nissan Motor plant in Tennessee recently voted against joining the UAW (see Nissan Workers Overwhelmingly Reject Union ).
The union also represents workers in the aerospace and defense, farm, and heavy equipment, and other manufacturing industries.