General Motors nominates UAW Vice President Joe Ashton to its board of directors, marking the first time someone with such deep ties to labor would occupy a seat at the automaker.

The election of Ashton, who will retire from the UAW in June, hinges on a vote of shareholders, also occurring in June at GM’s annual meeting in Detroit.

“Joe brings a wealth of knowledge from his work across many industries, especially his deep understanding how labor strategy can contribute to a company’s success,” GM Chairman Tim Solso says in a statement today.

The 65-year old Ashton was designated for nomination by the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, or VEBA. The VEBA gets to designate a director for nomination by the board based on its 9.2% stake in GM, which it gained during the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy.

If elected, Ashton would be the first member of the GM board of directors so closely aligned with organized labor.

Former UAW President Doug Fraser was the first leader from the organization to sit on the board of directors at an automaker when he was appointed to a seat at Chrysler in 1980. Former UAW President Ron Gettelfinger sat on Chrysler’s board when the automaker was owned by Germany’s Daimler, as did current UAW chief Bob King during that period.

King serves today on the supervisory board at GM’s Opel unit in Germany. UAW Director Dennis Williams serves on the board of directors at big-truck maker Navistar.

The nomination of Ashton marks another groundbreaking move for GM. In January Mary Barra took over as CEO, the first female to serve as chief executive of a major automaker.

Ashton joined the UAW in 1969 and has served on its international staff in a variety of leadership roles since 1986. He additionally serves as executive vice president of both the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Executive Council and the New Jersey AFL-CIO. Ashton is a former director of the Western New York Federal Reserve Bank.

GM makes the announcement as part of a proxy statement to shareholders and federal regulators.

The GM board also re-nominates Steve Girsky, 51as a director. A former GM vice chairman and currently special adviser to the automaker, Girsky was the previous representative of the VEBA on the board.

jamend@wardsauto.com