UAW caucus nominates Missouri official to be next president

An influential caucus of United Auto Workers leaders on Thursday nominated a regional director from Missouri to become the union's next president.

Gary Jones, who heads a regional office near St. Louis, will lead a slate of candidates to be voted on at the union's convention in June. In most cases candidates are elected after being nominated by the caucus of local union leaders.

Jones likely will replace Dennis Williams and take over a 400,000-member union that is dealing with a bribery scandal and stalled efforts to organize workers at foreign-owned auto plants in the south.

Before becoming regional director Jones, a certified public accountant, served as the union's chief accountant and as a top aide to three secretary-treasurers at the Detroit headquarters.

Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel was nominated to return to his post. Vice President Cindy Estrada and Regional Directors Rory Gamble and Terry Dittes were nominated for three vice president posts. Gamble leads a region in Michigan while Dittes heads a regional office based in New York.

Williams will retire, as will Vice Presidents Jimmy Settles and Norwood Jewell.

The pending change in leadership comes as the UAW faces an expanding federal investigation into a corruption scandal involving a worker training center jointly run by Fiat Chrysler and the union. The government alleges that more than $4 million in training and education funds intended for auto workers was stolen as part of the scheme. A former Fiat Chrysler executive, the wife of a United Auto Workers leader and two others are charged in the case. Authorities allege the stolen money was used to pay for vacations, expensive clothing, a Ferrari luxury sports car and other items.

The government said some of the money was funneled the wife of late UAW Vice President General Holiefield. Holiefield negotiated with Fiat Chrysler on behalf of the UAW. He died in 2015.

In August, the union lost a high-profile election as it tried to organize Nissan Motor Co.'s factory in Canton, Mississippi. More than 62 percent of workers voted against joining the union.