‘We’re in for a battle… for the UAW and the existence of the middle class’
By ED FINKELSTEIN
Detroit, MI - With a rousing call-to-arms to his members to fight for the rights of all workers, their families and protect the values the UAW and other unions have won to create the middle class, St. Louis based UAW Region 5 Director Gary Jones recently was elected as general president of the United Auto Workers at its 37th Constitutional Convention here.
“We’re in for a battle,” Jones said. “A battle for unions, for the UAW and the existence of the middle class. I’m here to fight for you, and you have come here with me to fight. Fighting is in our blood. We are here to win!”
Paying tribute to past leadership, his family, UAW members everywhere and his own members of Broken Arrow, OK Local 1895 –– where he began his UAW career as a furnace operator in 1975 –– Jones outlined a broad range of goals, among them:
• Jobs – Pledging that the UAW will meet anti-union forces “on every front... like efforts to pass more so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws and... gerrymandering legislative districts,” he stressed that the union has an all-out effort nationally to organize the unorganized and create more good paying jobs for workers. “This effort will use the strength of solidarity to win solid contracts for our members,” Jones said, stressing the need for “making sure everyone’s basic needs are met. A rising tide lifts all boats.”
• Politics – In this critical period of the mid-term elections that could well determine the fate of workers for years to come, Jones made it clear: “Our politics will be Labor first... We will no longer be asking why our union does not support our representatives, we will be asking why our representatives do not support our union....”
• Militancy – Reminding the delegates of the famous sit-down strikes in the Flint auto plants that “changed the world with the strength of our solidarity,” and the 1932 march of over 5,000 workers at the Ford plant in Dearborn to win decent working conditions and pay enjoyed by members today, Jones stressed, “When one of us is under attack, an army of red-shirted brothers and sisters will rise and say proudly ‘What you do to one of us, you do to all of us...’ and we will prevail.
“When faced with challenges, we will remember standing on the overpass on Miller Road, Gate 4, in the Ford River Rouge complex,” he said, citing a historic confrontation with Ford Motor Co. goons in 1937.
• Social justice – Noting that the UAW, like the rest of the Labor Movement, recognizes “Values are color blind, values are gender neutral,” he pledged that the UAW will support “...values that embrace education, health care, time for families, fraternity, a fair living wage and equality for all.”
• Community support – He noted that across America, UAW members have a heart that always reaches out when help is needed, and will continue that effort. As examples, he noted UAW members bringing food and other supplies to Hurricane Harvey and Irma victims in Texas and Florida and helping in Puerto Rico with everything from medical staff to electricians.
Jones said his personal values are a reflection of his strong upbringing, his faith and his commitment to the core values of the UAW.
‘CLEAR VISION OF WHERE WE CAME FROM AND WHO WE ARE’
“We are going to work hard to ensure that our UAW values are represented in everything that we do. Our team and this UAW will always look for the opportunities hidden in our challenges… and always do so with the clear vision of where we came from and who we are as a union,” Jones said.
“The UAW’s idea of a middle class has meant organized opposition to anti-union interests, wherever they may be. We will fight for our retirees, for our active members and for members to come. We will stand up for civil rights, for gender equality, and for families and workers everywhere. We have a history of right on our side.”
HISTORY WITH THE UNION
A certified public accountant, Jones has held multiple accounting roles within the union, starting in 1990 when former President Owen Bieber assigned him to the UAW’s accounting department.
In 1991, he was named chief accountant. He was appointed top administrative assistant to the UAW’s secretary-treasurer in 1995, and served in that role until 2004, when he was appointed assistant director of Region 5.
Jones has been director of Region 5 since June 2014, serving UAW members and retirees in 17 states in the western and southwestern United States, including Missouri, California and Washington state.
A UAW Local 1895 member, Jones was hired at Ford Motor Co.’s Glass plant in Broken Arrow, OK, in 1975. He became a member of UAW Local 249 when he transferred to the Kansas City Ford Assembly Plant after the glass plant closed.
Jones and his wife, Cindy, live in O’Fallon, Missouri, and have two daughters and three granddaughters.
(Some information from the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press.)
Vance Pearson elected new director of Region 5
The new director of UAW Region 5 is St. Charles resident Vance Pearson, a 31-year UAW veteran also elected at the recent UAW convention in Detroit.
Serving as the assistant regional Director for St. Louis-based Region 5, he has served on the UAW’s international staff and as Region 5 leader responsible for collective bargaining, arbitrations, and organizing throughout the Region’s 17-state service area.
Pearson, certified as an aircraft electrician, hired in at Boeing North American in Tulsa, OK in 1981.
His leadership skills were quickly recognized as his coworkers elected him to serve as an alternate committeeman, a committeeman, a seniority coordinator, a bargaining committeeman, a shop vice chairman, a chairman, a vice president and later Local 887 president.
Pearson has a long history of being involved in his church and gives his full participation in his community including being a long-term member of organizations such as the NAACP, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.