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UAW nominates a new chief

United Auto Workers leaders chose Owen Bieber as their nominee to succeed Douglas A. Fraser when UAW elects a new president in May. He is expected to face token opposition, but his election is considered certain, Monitor correspondent Ed Townsend reports.

For the first time then, UAW will shift to a president who was not part of the bitter, sometimes violent, struggles to unionize the auto industry in the 1930s and '40s. When Mr. Fraser and retiring board members leave office they will be almost the last of those around when UAW formed.

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Mr. Bieber went to work in an auto plant in the late '40s. He is now vice-president and director of UAW's big General Motors department. In winning the nomination, he defeated Raymond Majerus, renominated to be secretary-treasurer, and Donald Ephlin, another vice-president who heads the UAW Ford department. Both pledged to support Bieber.

The new leadership will face tough times. UAW's membership is down about 25 percent from a 1970 peak of 1.5 million; almost a quarter - over 250,000 of those left - are unemployed; and the union has lost much of its bargaining initiative after settling with GM, Ford, and other major employers without substantial wage or other gains.

The UAW has had leadership stability since 1936, with only 4 presidents in 47 years. The question now is: Can the new leaders do as well under changing conditions in industry and organized labor?

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