Detroit News: Marick Masters on ramifications of UAW region consolidation

The United Auto Workers' governing International Executive Board is poised to vote Thursday to elevate Gerald Kariem, director of the union's Region 1D, to vice president and director of its Ford Motor Co. Department. The executive board also could consider a plan to split Kariem's region representing 48,000 members and combine it with two other regions. The consolidation would be the second in as many months after the executive board dissolved Region 5 amid an expanding federal corruption investigation that entangled the region and its union's top leaders. "Given what has happened over time in their memberships, they very well may not need three regions in the state of Michigan and Canada," said Marick Masters, a Wayne State University business professor who studies labor relations. Consolidating a region associated with corruption could be a way to start over and clean out corruption, Masters said. But regions typically are consolidated because of declining membership or financial problems. The consolidation also could create a "more powerful entity that might be able to influence the political process or influence the bargaining process," Masters said. But merging regions can be a difficult task for members looking to preserve their own regional identities and power, Masters added: "I think most of the time they are not OK with it. They may feel in being a part of a larger unit, their interests may be quashed."

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