Rory Gamble, the thirteenth president of the UAW, announced Friday that he would be retiring next week, after leading the union through one of the darkest periods in its history.
Gamble was named interim president in November 2019, later removing the interim from the title. He oversaw the union at a time when it was the focus of a federal corruption investigation that eventually saw Gary Jones, who preceded Gamble as UAW president, and Dennis Williams, who preceded Jones as president, arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison for federal crimes.
“I said on Day One I would hand over the keys to this treasured institution as a clean union,” said Gamble, 65. “My original intent as a UAW Vice President was to retire at the end of June 2021, and after looking at the progress we have made and the best interests of UAW members for a stable transfer of power, this is the right time for me to turn over the reins.”
According to The Detroit News, Gamble, the first black UAW president, could be replaced by the second black UAW president, or current Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry. But we are also in who-knows-what-could-happen territory.
With the ability to run for a full term in 2022 and reelection in 2026, Curry’s theoretical presidency could last about nine years. Such a tenure could span the fraught transition toward electric vehicles that require fewer workers to assemble and fewer parts than their gas- and diesel-powered predecessors.
If the membership of the UAW chooses the “one member, one vote” principle through the referendum, according to the consent decree between the union and the government, the UAW constitution will be amended to incorporate the new election model ahead of the next UAW constitutional convention in June 2022 when the next election for the executive board would take place.
I hope Gamble’s retirement really is turning the page on a period in American labor history that has left a stain. I also know that one big reason people at the union trusted Gamble when he took over was because he came with a near-term expiration date. It sounds like the next person won’t.