UAW Members Vote at Last

Against the Current, No. 221, November/December 2022

Dianne Feeley

FOR THE FIRST time in the history of the UAW, members will be able to vote for their top officers. A million members, including retirees, will receive mail-in ballots. Industrial workers represent 75% of the working members while nurses, state workers, graduate students and casino employees make up the rest.

Ballots went out at the end of October; results will be tabulated beginning November 29. Those receiving more than 50% of the vote win outright, others face a run-off.

Until the corruption of a dozen top officers was revealed through a government investigation, top positions were elected through a delegated convention that the Administration Caucus has dominated since 1947. The caucus maintained its control over the union through its carrot-and-stick approach, especially through the appointment of paid union positions. While there have been many challenges to the Administration Caucus and its increasing willingness to make concessions, most of those who dissented or supported militant action were outmaneuvered, blacklisted or crushed.

The struggle for one member, one vote was won through a 2021 membership referendum. This occurred because the Administration Caucus could not contain its stench of corruption. A dozen top officers had appropriated money from UAW funds to provide a lavish lifestyle for themselves. Two corporate executives have also been sentenced for deals they worked out with UAW officials. Additionally officials took at least $1.9 million kickbacks from vendors.

Meanwhile the Unite All Workers for Democracy caucus had been campaigning to win the required number of locals that could change the constitution to electing top officers through a membership vote. When the U.S. Justice Department appointed a federal monitor over the union, he instituted a referendum to determine this issue. The Administrative Caucus leadership kept fairly quiet about the referendum, perhaps suspecting it would pass and minimizing the number of voters by their silence.

Having advocated a “yes” vote on the referendum and playing an active role in raising critical issues at the recent convention, UAWD put together a UAW Members United slate of seven candidates. It is the only slate running against the Administration Caucus, dubbed the Curry slate after Ray Curry, who was installed as president by the UAW executive board following the arrest and resignation of Gary Jones in June 2021. The USWD slate is headed by Shawn Fain, an international representative who broke with the Administrative Caucus.

In addition to monitoring and reporting on the UAW leadership’s transparency or lack thereof, the federal monitor set up the rules for the current election. These included a series of debates with labor writer Stephen Greenhouse as moderator as well as a special edition of Solidarity magazine. The 28-page magazine contained election rules and equal free space for the various candidates.

As a UAWD member, I have been leafleting various plants in the Detroit area and have gotten a good response from members, who are interested in an anti-concessions, anti-corruption slate. Whatever the vote, the task ahead is monumental: We need to end the system of tiers that cuts across the need to unify workers, and launch an effective organizing drive to recruit unorganized workers who will be attracted to a democratic and militant union.

November-December 2022, ATC 221

Leave a comment

ATC welcomes online comments on stories that are posted on its website. Comments are intended to be a forum for open and respectful discussion.
Comments may be denied publication for the use of threatening, discriminatory, libelous or harassing language, ad hominem attacks, off-topic comments, or disclosure of information that is confidential by law or regulation.
Anonymous comments are not permitted. Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked *