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The scramble to find a permanent replacement for United Auto Workers President Gary Jones is on, even though the embattled union boss officially is on leave amid the federal investigation into union corruption.

Jones on Saturday took a paid leave of absence after being further implicated in a continuing criminal investigation that has produced charges against 12 people and delivered 10 convictions. The Detroit News on Thursday identified Jones as the unidentified "UAW Official A" in criminal charges against a top associate who helped to embezzle $700,000 in member dues and pocket the cash. Jones has not been charged.

"The latest charges clearly implicate him," Kristin Dzizcek, vice president of industry, labor and economics for the Center for Automotive Research, said of Jones. "It would be very difficult to continue on with that cloud over them."

Howes:As Jones steps aside, job one for UAW is restoring credibility

More: UAW President Gary Jones goes on paid leave amid corruption probe

The UAW constitution does not outline a succession plan for its top leaders. But Article 7, Section 1 says that in the case of the "incapacity of the International President," an officer of the union selected by the International Executive Board would assume the president's powers and duties.

Effective Sunday, Vice President Rory Gamble, head of the union's Ford Department, will serve as interim president, the union said in a statement. Gamble will be the first African American president of the UAW, a milestone praised by local leaders Saturday.

“I salute the UAW for its vision to place Rory Gamble in this leadership position, pray for him and for the restoration of the integrity of the UAW," the Rev. Horace L. Sheffield III said in a statement. "And I trust that through his leadership that the workers and members of the UAW will move forward in solidarity."

Gamble faces some major obstacles. He recently negotiated a tentative agreement with Ford Motor Co., which includes wage increases, retained health coverage, $6 billion in plant investments and $9,000 ratification bonuses. UAW-Ford members will start voting on Saturday and will continue for two weeks until Nov. 15.

"He’s just finished this tentative agreement, which is a pretty good agreement," Dzizcek said. "It moved along things further than they go with GM. He has a little bit of wind under his sail."

After a contract is ratified at Ford, the president also will have to work with the union's team at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to negotiate a deal with the Italian American automaker, talks that experts expect will be more difficult since Fiat Chrysler has more lower-paid temporary and in-progression employees than its crosstown rivals.

"It might be easier without Gary Jones," Dzizcek said.

Gamble has not been named in an ongoing federal investigation into corruption within the UAW. He was director of Region 1A before he was elected vice president of the UAW’s Ford division in June 2018. He joined the UAW in 1974 when he was hired at Ford, according to the UAW’s website.

Gamble was first elected to office within the UAW in 1975, when Local 600 members elected him to serve as plant trustee. He’s held various positions within the UAW on both a local and international level. He was elected vice president of Local 600 in 2002.

Known for a more calm demeanor than some of his counterparts on the UAW’s International Executive Board, Gamble succeeded former Vice President Jimmy Settles. Gamble is known for various contributions to charities in Detroit and southeast Michigan. He lives in Detroit and graduated from Wayne State University.

The constitution does not say the union must appoint a new vice president to fill Gamble's role immediately.  Should Jones' temporary absence become permanent, Article 10, Section 17 of the UAW constitution says a majority vote of all members of the nine-member International Executive Board has the power “in the event of the death, removal or resignation of the International President” to replace him or her with an eligible candidate. The constitution also outlines methods by which the board and local unions can call for a special convention or initiate a trial of an officer.

In the event a permanent replacement is needed, here are some of the possibilities, according to industry experts, current and former labor-relations executives and traditional union hierarchy:

Chuck Browning

UAW members in June 2018 elected Browning as the director of Region 1A, which is based in Taylor and covers Monroe and Washtenaw counties, most of Wayne County and extends to the Ohio border. Prior to that, the Michigan native was the executive administrative assistant to UAW President Dennis Williams starting in 2014.

Browning joined the union in 1987 while working at Mazda Motor Corp.’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant, where he served on the bargaining committee and as plant chairman. UAW President Stephen Yokich appointed Browning in 2000 to be an international representative assigned to the Ford unit.

Browning has been seen as a potential future candidate of the union, Dziczek said. “He is a really smart guy. I think he’s tough and sensible. He seems to have the workers’ interest in his focus. He also understands the workings of the auto sector.”

Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley who studies labor issues, said Browning doesn't avoid tough problems. That's a sentiment echoed by industry executives who have worked with him and say he has good command of the union contract and how the modern auto industry operates.

“He’s unusually gifted, thoughtful and effective leader,” Shaiken said. “On one level he really embodies the spirit of the UAW as a very progressive union as it represents their interests and advocates their interests politically off the job. He also is very savvy as a strategist, is a quick learner and has an open mind.”

His past with Williams — also implicated, but not charged, in the corruption investigation — could give the UAW pause. Browning has not been connected to the scandal, sources say.

Ray Curry

In June 2018, UAW members elected Ray Curry the union’s secretary-treasurer. Prior to that he was the director of Region 8, which is based in Tennessee and covers the southeastern states. Under the North Carolina native’s leadership, Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino organized the region’s first gaming bargaining unit in 2015 and the region won an election for representation at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in June 2018.

Although Curry has had a focus on organizing, he also doesn’t forget what the union has accomplished and what it has meant to the middle class, Shaiken said. "He’s a very capable leader. He did important things on a regional level. He also brings an effective, progressive vision to the union.”

Curry joined the UAW in 1992 as a truck assembler at Freightliner Corp. (now Daimler Trucks North America LLC) in Mount Holly, North Carolina, and worked in several leadership positions locally. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger in 2004 appointed him as an International representative for Region 8.

Curry earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama. He also served three years on active duty in the U.S. Army and five years in the reserves.

Curry has received a number of honors for his work for the UAW and also could be the first African American to become president if chosen.

Terry Dittes

The voice and face of the UAW's 40-day strike against General Motors, Dittes hails from the East Coast and is said to be actively interested in ascending to the union presidency should Jones' leave become permanent.

Dittes hired into the Fisher Body Plant in Trenton, New Jersey in 1978, according to his official UAW bio, joining UAW Local 731. He began holding administrative positions in the union in 1985. And In 1999, he was appointed to the Region 9 staff by its regional director at the time and then-UAW President Steve Yokich.

Dittes was named a vice president and head of the union's GM department early last year, a position that later became the voice of the longest national strike against GM in nearly 50 years. He is considered an ally of Jones, which could be an asset should the embattled president hang on to his job and return to Solidarity House. Or those ties could become a liability should Jones' legal jeopardy worsen. His association with the 40-day strike could weigh on a candidacy for president and whether that would be advantageous to the union going forward. As a UAW vice president, he has headed its FIat Chrysler Automobiles NV department, as well as agricultural Implement, heavy truck and General Dynamics units. His family lives in Philadelphia.

Cindy Estrada

UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada was appointed to lead the Fiat Chrysler department after leading the General Motors department since 2014. The move from GM, however, was widely considered a demotion because her leadership has been under scrutiny by federal investigators for almost two years.

The News reported in late 2017 that investigators were interested in Estrada and her predecessor, former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton. The government's interest stemmed from a focus on whether UAW officials received money or things of value directly or through their tax-exempt nonprofits.

Ashton resigned from the board of General Motors Co. in December 2017 and has since been implicated in a nearly $16 million bribery and kickback scheme. That scheme involves Estrada's administrative assistant, Mike Grimes, who pleaded guilty in September for receiving $1.5 million in bribes and kickbacks from UAW vendors.

Estrada, meanwhile, is the first Latina to lead the GM department, according to the UAW, and would be the union's first Latina president. Estrada first made her mark at the UAW in 1995 when she helped organize workers in southwest Detroit. She was then appointed to the International UAW’s organizing staff in 2000, according to the UAW.

bnoble@detroitnews.com

ithibodeau@detroitnews.com

daniel.howes@detroitnews.com

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