Born in Michigan in 1946, Bob King graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1968. From 1968 to 1970, he served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in South Korea. In 1970 he found full-time employment at the Ford Motor Company's Detroit Parts Depot and joined the United Auto Workers' (UAW) Local 600. Two years later he became an electrician's apprentice, and in 1973 he earned a J.D. from the University of Detroit Law School.
In 1981 King became vice president of UAW Local 600; three years later he was elected president. After his re-election in 1987, King was named chairman of the UAW-Ford Negotiating Committee.
From 1989-98, King served as UAW's director in three Michigan counties. Early in that tenure – in May 1991 – he participated in a welcoming reception for the first Cuban trade-union delegation ever to be granted visas to the United States during the Castro regime. The visit was organized by the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship (a front group created by the Communist Party USA) and the Detroit Justice for Cuba Coalition.
In 1998 King began serving the first of three consecutive four-year terms as a UAW vice president.
In the winter of 2001, King and six fellow UAW leaders hailed Democratic Left, a publication of the Democratic Socialists of America, as “a strong voice for social and economic justice.”
In June 2010 King was elected president of the UAW.
On August 28, 2010 (the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington), Bob King and Rev. Jesse Jackson co-organized a Detroit protest march to demand “jobs, peace, and justice.” Among the elected officials attending this event were John Conyers, Maxine Waters, and Marcy Kaptur. Guest speakers included newly-elected SEIU president Mary Kay Henry, Farm Laborers Organizing Committee president Baldemar Velasquez, and AFSCME Council 25 president Al Garrett.
On February 16, 2011, President Barack Obama appointed King to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.
In the fall of 2011, King lauded “the courage and determination” of the newly formed Occupy Wall Street movement which not only had “galvanized generations of Americans fed up with corporate greed,” but also pointed the way toward “a more just, equal and fair society.”
An original member of the AFL-CIO Elected Leader Task Force on Organizing, King also founded the International Labor Solidarity Network. Moreover, he is a life member of the NAACP and a member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women. King also serves on the board of directors of the Economic Policy Institute along with such notables as Leo Gerard, Julianne Malveaux, Robert Reich, and Richard Trumka.
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 Among EPI's more prominent former board members were Andrew Stern and Raul Yzaguirre.