Tough era ahead spells trial-by-fire to new UAW leaders
By Ed Townsend, Labor correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor — The United Automobile Workers is facing "the most difficult period we've ever gone through" -- including restlessness and frustration in the union's rank and file -- with a new and younger leadership.
UAW's triennial convention chose successors to four retiring, veteran leaders who helped organize and build the auto union -- Emil Mazey, secretary-treasurer since 1947, and three vice-presidents. All retired. Their replacements will serve under Douglas A. Fraser, reelected president in Anaheim, Calif., last week.
Raymond E. Majerus, new secretary-treasurer, and newly elected vice-presidents Owen Bieber, Donald F. Ephlim, and Steven P. Yokich are experienced but relatively young leaders and will be taking over controls for the first time. All follow the activist trade union philosophy traditional in UAW.
Mr. Fraser, expected to retire in 1983, said: "This is the turning point in the history of our union. This is the biggest turnover in our leadership in 35 years. Transitions are never painless, and this comes at by far the most difficult period we've ever gone through."
Record layoffs in the auto industry have had a heavy impact on UAW. One-fourth of the union's 800,000 members in the auto industry have been laid off indefinitely; many may never return to auto plant jobs. UAW's membership is dropping sharply from its peak, 1.4 million.