UPDATE 1-UAW elects Dennis Williams as president

Wed Jun 4, 2014 4:01pm EDT
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(Adds comments by Williams, details of election and coming challenges)

By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT, June 4 (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers union elected Dennis Williams to a four-year term as its president on Wednesday, putting him in charge of a union facing tricky contract talks with Detroit's "Big Three" automakers next year.

Williams, 61, has said he will serve only a single term as president of the 78-year-old union.

He faces difficult 2015 contract negotiations with the three major U.S. automakers, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles , as UAW members will press for the elimination of a two-tiered wage scale.

About a quarter of unionized workers at the U.S. automakers are so-called second-tier employees who make less than veteran workers. The UAW accepted the tiered wage structure in 2007 as the automakers were struggling. Now all three are profitable.

Williams succeeds Bob King, 67, who served a four-year term. Williams will be inaugurated on Thursday at the UAW convention in downtown Detroit.

"The challenges are real, without a doubt," Williams told reporters after his election. He listed the 2016 presidential election, next year's contract negotiations with automakers and the need to close the income gap between Americans.

Williams, an ex-Marine, has been in the UAW since 1977, when he worked at heavy equipment maker J.I. Case factory.   Continued...