UAW Vice President Gerald Kariem, the key liaison to Ford Motor Co. for the labor union, announced Tuesday that he will end his term early and retire next month.
He plans to serve in his role through June 30. An appointment will be made to fulfill the balance of his term, which ends in June 2022.
Kariem, 65, of Saginaw stepped into the role as director of the UAW Ford Department in January 2020 after now-UAW President Rory Gamble suddenly was asked to accept a promotion amid scandal involving then-President Gary Jones and others.
The son of a foundry worker, Kariem worked on the assembly line at age 20. He built steering column housings at Saginaw Steering Gear in 1976.
For more than a year, he has handled daily labor issues and negotiations with the largest employer of UAW members in the industry.
He worked with UAW and Ford to implement safety protocols for UAW members in the factories throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; has offered guidance and support during the manufacturing cutbacks triggered by a semiconductor shortage; engaged in ongoing discussions related to technology changes in the industry and implemented the 2019 collective bargaining agreement.
“I had intended to retire at 65 as Regional Director in Region 1D (in Grand Rapids),” Kariem said in prepared remarks. “But it was important to get our Ford members through this pandemic and make sure we had solid footing for our membership before I retired. I’m proud of the work we have done implementing the 2019 labor agreement, steering through this pandemic and the day-to-day challenges it presented, and now this worldwide launch of the F-150 Lightning. The time is right to pass the torch.”
The UAW has a long tradition of retirement at age 65, a UAW news release said.
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Kariem added that he is looking forward to spending more time with his family but will also remain involved in nonprofit community work after retiring.
“It’s part of our calling,” he said. “This is a new chapter and I will always be so proud of my UAW family. We faced enormous challenges together and today, we are stronger for it. It has truly been a blessing, and I thank God for the opportunity to serve.”
Kariem was unanimously elected by the UAW International Board on Jan.uary 16, 2020. Gamble had vacated the Ford position when he was elected president on Dec. 5, 2019. Kariem had been elected to his third term as director of UAW Region 1D by delegates to the UAW’s 37th Constitutional Convention in June 2018.
“During his tenure for nearly a decade as a member of the UAW International Executive Board, and at the helm of one of the most diverse regions in the union, Kariem skillfully managed the merger between Regions 1C and 1D,” the UAW said. “His leadership and guidance brought the IPS-TOP-Aerospace and General Motors dense region together. Region 1D covers UAW members in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the central, western and northern portions of the Lower Peninsula.”
The day he was promoted to the top, Kariem was stunned by the “huge responsibility.”
“I don’t take it lightly,” Kariem told the Free Press at the time. “I’m grateful, very grateful. This is beyond my wildest dreams. We’ll take it one day at a time and do the best we can every day. We owe that to members on the line.”
This story is developing.
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Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-222-6512 firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow her on Twitter@phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.