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As the UAW’s regional director in Illinois Williams has dealt extensively with the Detroit Three automakers, Caterpillar, Case,and Navistar, where he has been a board member for seven years.
Dennis Williams at his desk in Solidarity House.
The expected next president of the UAW is promising to push ahead with the union’s efforts to organize workers atand other transplant automotive facilities in the South.
“People better get used to the UAW in the South," says Dennis Williams, who is likely to be elected during the union's Constitutional Convention in early June.
"We're not leaving," the 61-year-old Williams tells WardsAuto in an interview, adding he dislikes 2-tier wage agreements and wants workers to get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
The UAW's first effort to organize workers at VW's new plant in Chattanooga, TN, ended in a narrow defeat in February. However, the UAW has withdrawn its post-election protests, setting the stage for another election early next year.
Williams, currently the UAW secretary-treasurer, brings to the UAW presidency a deep Midwestern character, having first joined the union in 1977 as a welder in a J.I. Case plant in Rock Island, IL.
As the UAW’s regional director in Illinois and a member of union's board since 2001, Williams has dealt extensively with companies such as Caterpillar, Case (now part of CNH), Mitsubishi and Navistar, where he has served seven years on the board of directors, as well as, and .
"I've negotiated with several companies," Williams says. "They're all unique. They have their own philosophies. They have their own strategies. Some companies are more proactive with their labor unions.
“But basically they're all businessmen. They're there to make a profit and to build the best vehicles they can.”
In the case of, the union leader has managed several times to persuade management to continue operating the automaker’s assembly plant in Normal, IL. "I've had a close relationship with Mitsubishi since 1988 and I've traveled back and forth to Japan several times," says Williams, whose record at the bargaining table and in politics marks him as a hardcore pragmatist.
Williams says experience has taught him management and labor have the same basic objectives, adding UAW members want employers to succeed.
"We just want to share a little bit," he says.
In 2010, Williams succeeded in negotiating a new contract with Caterpillar, which in the past had been the target of several damaging strikes. The relationship between the company and the UAW remains is “a work in progress,” he says, “But for the first time since 1950 we were able to get an agreement without a confrontation.”