Former Unifor President Jerry Dias built a considerable automotive legacy in his eight-plus years leading the Canadian union.
Dias, who retired March 11, was influential in securing billions of dollars of investments for the country's assembly plants, helping to secure a Canadian manufacturing footprint that had been in danger of collapsing.
He loudly advocated for auto workers as a participant in North American trade talks during intense spats with automakers such as General Motors.
But the longtime labour leader has exited under a cloud of controversy that threatens to tarnish that legacy.
A day after announcing Dias' sudden retirement because of health issues, Unifor said its former leader was under investigation for an alleged breach of the union's constitution. The nature of the allegation is still unknown.
The union did not provide specifics, citing that the investigation was ongoing. Dias declined to comment to Automotive News.
Dias, 63, went on medical leave Feb. 6, 11 days after the union began an independent external investigation after receiving a written complaint. He had been expected to retire later in the year, following Unifor's convention in August. He instead did so this month.
FOCUS ON AUTO
The controversy surrounding his retirement complicates a story of a long career in union politics and leading Canada's largest private-sector union, which represents about 40,000 hourly auto workers.
Dias became the first national president of Unifor in 2013, after the Canadian Auto Workers merged with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. The union represents workers across a wide array of sectors, from media to aviation, with auto workers making up about 13 per cent of total membership.
Despite its relatively small footprint in the union, the auto sector was a top priority for Dias throughout his tenure. Presenting himself publicly as a gruff, no-nonsense advocate for Canadian auto workers, Dias played key roles in several rounds of negotiations with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.