The United Auto Workers new executive board will take office next week with a new attitude and a new agenda as it heads into negotiations with Detroit’s three automakers.
The first direct election of top union officers reshaped the United Auto Workers executive board with reformers winning six seats outright and setting up runoffs elections for at least two other seats on the 14-member board, including the UAW presidency. The new members will be sworn in Dec. 12, according to the court-appointed monitor responsible for the elections.
“Our members have spoken. We are confident that all re-elected and newly elected UAW International Executive Board members look forward to leading all of our sectors and membership with a vision of strengthening our great union,” said UAW president Ray Curry, who was left fighting for his political life after three of every five union members voting in the election cast their votes for one of the other four presidential candidates on the ballot.
In the unofficial vote tally, Curry, who took over as UAW president in July 2021, led challenger Shawn Fain by 614 votes, setting up a runoff. The runoff will require another mail-in vote and leave the union without a president until early March even as negotiations with Detroit’s three automakers loom with contracts set to expire in nine months.
Responsibility for bargaining with Detroit’s automakers shifts
But reformers said the shift in power inside the union, which has been rudderless since it became engulfed in scandal in 2017, means concessions of any kind are off the table in 2023. The reformers also want to eliminate the multi-tier pay system, which has prevailed in the UAW’s contracts with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis since 2007.
Fain said in an interview with TheDetroitBureau.com he believed corruption of the old union leadership as well as frustration among the membership about the lack contract gains during the past decade as corporations posted record profits were primary issues in the campaign.
“It’s one thing to help a company during a recession, but that hasn’t been the case for a decade now,” he said. “Prepare for a new, more aggressive UAW.”
Significantly, two members of Fain’s Member’s United Slate, Michael Booth and Rich Boyer, were elected vice president over candidates from the old guard Administration Caucus, which has represented UAW members at the bargaining table for more than 70 years.
The union’s vice presidents typically head bargaining teams, which face off against company bargainers, giving Booth and Boyer key roles in 2023 negotiations. In a sign of the shift in influence inside the UAW, Curry will not have the authority to change the system, which leaves reformers in charge of negotiations with two of the three automakers.
In addition, in a sign of the dissatisfaction with union’s approach to bargaining in recent years, UAW members at Volvo and John Deere, favored reform. UAW members at GM where the union struck for 40 days also tilted against Curry and the Administration Caucus.
Reformers capture key posts
Reformers captured the union’s second highest post, Secretary Treasurer where Margaret Mock ousted Frank Stughlin.
The Members United slate also captured executive board seats from Region 1 on the east side of Detroit where LaShawn English will now be the regional director and in Region 9A centered in New York and New England where Brandon Mancilla, a former Harvard graduate student will now serve as regional director.
Dave Green, the former president of UAW Local 1112 in Lordstown, Ohio, will take over as director of Region 2B, which includes Indiana and Ohio.
Green, who mounted a vigorous campaign to block the shutdown of the GM’s Lordstown assembly plant ran as an independent but is considered a reformer since he beat the Administration Caucus favored candidate. Green ran for regional director two years ago and received no votes during a regional convention run under the union’s old rules for filling its top officers.
He said in an interview the change in the election rules made all the difference. The rules changes were imposed under the terms of the settlement of a racketeering suit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in the wake of the corruption scandal inside the union.
During the runoff, Curry faces an uphill battle. The third-place finisher Brian Keller collected 14% of the vote and in the first round of voting. He also recommended voting for the other candidates on the Members United slate. Keller, who has built a large following on Facebook during the past two years, also has indicated he prefers Fain to Curry.
Curry also is hobbled by some major baggage. He was elected UAW Secretary Treasurer at the UAW’s Constitutional Convention on a slate headed by Gary Jones, who was later convicted on federal corruption charges. Jones’ one significant accomplishment was pushing through a major pay increase in 2018 for the union’s top officers
On his campaign website, Curry noted he was vetted by the monitor before becoming a candidate for president this time around.
While only about 11% of active union members and retirees returned their ballot, it was clear from the votes counted this week UAW members wanted a change the in the union, which has been hobbled by corruption and the stagnation in the union’s leadership brought on by the heavy-handed control of Administration Caucus, which ruled the union’s internal politics for decades, observers said.