On his second day in his new job, Daniel Akerson, CEO of General Motors, sent a Labor Day message to GM’s 80,000 employees in the United States and Canada. After wishing them a happy holiday weekend, he wrote:
“I also ask that we pause for a moment of reflection on what this day means as we celebrate on what this day means as we celebrate labor’s contribution labor’s many contributions here and around the world.
“Of course, labor’s role in building up this nation and others is well recognized and rightly so. And coming from a union family, I know on a very personal level the good things that unions can do.“I met recently with UAW President Bob King and Vice President-GM Department Joe Ashton at Solidarity House [UAW headquarters], and we agreed that, while we will not always see eye to eye on everything, GM will succeed to the extent that management and labor work together. I believe very deeply in that.”
(Akerson's note was an internal communication. The text was published later in Automotive News.)
GM and the UAW are scheduled to negotiate a contract that expires in September next year. King has said the UAW expect to win back some of the concessions it made as part of the GM governmental bailout last year.
Akerson, who holds a master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics, has spent much of his career as an executive in communications multinationals. In July 2009, he was named to the GM board of directives as a representative of the U.S. Treasury, which owns a majority stake in GM.
In an address last month, newly elected UAW president King outlined the major changes the union is making to become a “21st century UAW.” See HRFW’s “A union’s ‘make-over’ for 21st century globalization" of August 11.
In what is probably a unique combination outside the building trades, Akerson comes from a union family, and King is the son of a former Ford management official.