United Automobile Workers Union (UAW) willingness to try new bargaining strategies probably will be indicated by its choice of a successor to president Douglas Fraser next spring.
Mr. Fraser has reached the mandatory retirement age as head of the 1.2 million-member union.
Four candidates - three vice-presidents and the secretary-treasurer - now are jockeying for position.
The choice of vice-president Donald Ephlin, who heads the union's Ford Motor Department as well as its political arm, would signal a new readiness to work with management in arriving at future contracts on the basis of competitive pressures, speculates Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Harry Katz. Mr. Ephlin is considered the most cooperation-minded of the four in contract bargaining with management.
Any other choice could be a sign that workers aren't ready to buy closer cooperation, Dr. Katz thinks.
Fraser told reporters in Boston last week that he thought union secretary-treasurer Raymond Majerus had the inside track. But another informed source in the union indicated Sept. 29 that Ephlin is not out of the running yet.
The UAW executive board is expected to recommend a candidate to the membership by late November. The membership is scheduled to vote on a new slate of officers at the union's national convention in Dallas next May.