James Settles Jr. was elected a vice president of the UAW on June 14, 2006, at the union's 34th Constitutional Convention in Las Vegas and re-elected June 16, 2010, at the union's 35th Constitutional Convention in Detroit.
Settles has served on the UAW International Executive Board since June 2002, when he was elected director of UAW Region 1A. As Region 1A director, Settles played a lead role in successful organizing campaigns at such automotive parts suppliers as Johnson Controls, Arvin Meritor, GKN Sinter Metals, ACI, Bridgewater Interiors and Hollingsworth.
As Vice-President Settles has worked in a myriad of responsibilities including leading negotiations at the State of Michigan, American Axle, Mitsubishi Motors North America in Bloomington, Ill., Boeing, Spirit Aerosystems, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Most recently Settles led the negotiations with Ford Motor Company that had the potential to be a powder keg. Settles decision to use social media to help members have input and get information in a rapid manner turned out to be a bold and instrumental in getting to a deal.
He was appointed to the staff of the UAW in 1992 as a servicing representative in Region 1A.
Settles began his career as a trade union activist in 1968, when he joined UAW Local 600 upon starting work at Ford Motor Co.’s Dearborn Iron Foundry and Michigan Casting Center.
He was elected to positions of increasing responsibility by his co-workers, starting in 1970 with his election to the General Council of Local 600, an amalgamated local union. In 1973, he was elected district committeeperson and unit recording secretary. Two years later, he was elected unit vice president and district committeeperson. In 1980, his co-workers elected Settles as unit president. He was also elected as a delegate to the UAW Constitutional Conventions in 1974, 1977 and 1980.
Settles was appointed to the UAW Local 600 staff in 1982; he served as staff director in 1983 and as administrative assistant in 1984. UAW Local 600 members elected Settles recording secretary in 1984 and first vice president in 1987. He was a member of the UAW-Ford National Negotiating Committee in 1990.
A longtime political activist and Democratic precinct delegate, Settles has worked on numerous campaigns for progressive candidates and causes in southeast Michigan. During the 2012 Presidential Election Settles founded Detroit Circles, a grass roots campaign aimed at building support for President Obama in the 2012 Presidential Election, through a series of gatherings throughout Detroit and the surrounding metropolitan area. The purpose of these gatherings was to fundraise for the upcoming election, and encourage volunteerism for the election cycle. This campaign raised over $50,000 for President Obama’s campaign and thousands of volunteers and voters were engaged and worked throughout this elections cycle.
A Detroit native, Settles is active in a wide range of community and civic organizations. He is a member of the Trade Union Leadership Council, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and a Life member of the NAACP. He serves on the boards of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Detroit Public School Compact Association at McMichael Middle School, The Frederick G. Sampson Foundation and the Northwestern High School Alumni Association. He is a former member of the board of the Rouge Employees Credit Union.
Settles is a recipient of the Nelson Jack Edwards Award, named in honor of the former UAW vice president, and the Man of the Year Award from the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). He attends Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church.
Settles and his wife, Karen, live in Detroit. He has three children – James III, Jamelle and Ashlynn, and is stepfather to Dennis, Anthony and Derrick Yancy.