UAW Ford VP Gerald Kariem to retire next month

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

The director of the Ford Department for the United Auto Workers will retire next month, the union said Tuesday.

Gerald Kariem, 65, of Saginaw will continue in his position through June 30. He is one of the longest-serving members of the international's union board after being elected to it in 2010. The board will appoint a replacement to finish out Kariem's term, which ends in 2022.

Gerald Kariem

He took over the vice president role in January 2020 after Rory Gamble became president of the UAW following the resignation of Gary Jones amid a federal investigation into union corruption. Since then, Kariem has led Ford UAW members through the implementation of the 2019 contract, the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and safety protocols, and the semiconductor shortages challenging the automotive industry now.

"We faced enormous challenges together and today, we are stronger for it," Kariem said in a statement. "It has truly been a blessing, and I thank God for the opportunity to serve.”

Kariem's departure comes as Gamble, 65, is mulling his own retirement from the UAW, The Detroit News reported in April. Doing so could position Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry, 55, as the incumbent president next year when the union will choose its leaders following a referendum vote later this year that could amend the UAW constitution to require the direct election of international board members.

The referendum vote is part of the consent decree reached between the U.S. government and the union following the years-long corruption probe that convicted 11 UAW officers. The agreement puts the union under a third-party monitor for six years.

Prior to his role in the Ford Department, Kariem was director of UAW Region 1D in Grand Rapids. He oversaw its merger with Flint-based Region 1C in 2013. The region had 48,000 members in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, as well as the central, western and northern portions of the Lower Peninsula.

He joined the union at the age of 20 in 1976 at Saginaw Steering Gear and is a member of Local 362 in Bay City. He began in local union leadership in the early 1980s.

"His institution of annual regional area meetings, frequent worksite visits, and very visible presence at local union functions made Kariem a leader who was always in touch with the membership," the UAW said in a statement. "He believes in leadership development and empowerment of workers and in communities."

The union has a tradition of labor leaders retiring when they turn 65. Kariem said he stayed on to ensure a smooth transition following the labor talks and amid the pandemic.

Kariem is a member of the Democratic National Committee. Additionally, he sits on the boards of United Way of Saginaw County, the A. Philip Randolph Institute for African American trade unionists, the Saginaw Chapter of the NAACP and the Foundation for Mott Community College.

He and his wife, Pat, have been married for 43 years. They have a son, a daughter and four grandchildren. Kariem also is active in his church, Mt. Olive Institutional Missionary Baptist.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble