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UAW Presidential Candidate Calls for Election Redo


In a longshot bid to convince the UAW’s court-appointed monitor to redo the union’s election of its top officers, one of the five candidates in the contest for UAW president is asking for a new vote on the grounds the first contest was tainted by voter suppression.

UAW candidate Will Lehman
UAW Presidential candidate Will Lehman is pushing to union’s court-appointed monitor, Neil Barofsky, to redo the fall elections or put all remaining candidates into the three runoffs.

Will Lehman, a longshot candidate in the race for the UAW presidency, wound up behind Ray Curry and Shawn Fain. The pair will engage in a runoff election, starting next month. The monitor, Neil Barofsky, has not responded to the request. But during a hearing for a lawsuit filed by Lehman last month, lawyers representing Barofsky said a good faith effort was made to distribute ballots to active and retired UAW members.

The ultimate decision resides with Judge David Lawson, the federal judge overseeing the consent decree, which settled the Department of Justice’s racketeering suit against the union. Last spring, Lawson approved the election rules.

Small turnout embarrassed UAW

In an embarrassment to the union, fewer than 10% of eligible voters participated in the election.

Harley Shaiken, a labor expert from University of California-Berkeley, said the small turnout raised a challenge for the union since it indicates a smaller fraction of the membership is engaged with the union.

UAW 38th convention attendees two
Lehman contends the lower-than-expected voter turnout of 10%, is due to manipulation by the Administrative Caucus.

Candidates aligned with the Members United slate, who challenged the Administrative Caucus, which has basically controlled the UAW’s internal politics for more than 70 years, argued the low turnout stemmed from a feeling the election would be inconclusive and nothing would change.

During the fall election, reformers won six seats outright and are challenging for two more in the runoff this winter when the key race involves the contest for the union presidency in which Fain, the reform candidate is facing Curry, the current president and the candidate of the union’s old guard administrative caucus.

If they take two of three seats at stake in the runoff, including the union presidency, reform candidates would hold a majority on the board. Reformers also hope the turnout increases for the runoff, believing it would seal Curry’s defeat, Fain and other Members United slate backer argue.

In a protest filed with the monitor, Lehman argues the vote in the election for top officers this past autumn — the first in the UAW’s history — was undermined by the efforts of the union’s old guard, who control the union’s bureaucratic apparatus and thus the lists of eligible voters. The union apparatus used its influence to suppress the votes.

Protest cites lack of information

UAW President Ray Curry at ceremony
UAW President Ray Curry is in a runoff election against reform candidate Shawn Fain.

In support his protest, Lehman cites complaints from members from across the union, who state they never received a ballot from the monitor’s elections officer. Lehman supports the anecdotal evidence with survey of the election practices used in 55 different locals, representing a major cross section of the UAW active and retired members. The survey found little or nothing was done to notify members about the election or encourage them to vote.

The lack of instructions regarding voting was an effort by the UAW’s scandal-tainted old guard to hold down the vote, Leman argues. Going into the election, the assumption was the larger the turnout, the size of the vote for reformers would increase.

Lehman also noted the turnout dropped by almost 25% from the 2021 referendum, which forced a change in the way the union’s top officers are selected.

In addition, the turnout for the UAW election was substantially smaller than the number of voters in leadership elections within the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and United Mine Workers.

The 9% turnout in the UAW elections was by far the lowest for any direct national union elections. By comparison, the first-ever Teamsters direct election in the 1990s had 28 percent turnout. The first-ever UMWA direct elections had 47%.

The alibi of the UAW apparatus — that workers are “apathetic” — is simply not credible.

Meanwhile, even as the UAW apparatus was keeping workers in the dark about its union elections, it went to great lengths to “get out the vote” for the Democrats in the midterm elections — meaning that the UAW leadership had the means to inform workers of the union elections, but deliberately did not.

To remedy the violation of workers’ democratic right to participate in a meaningful election, either ballots should be re-issued and a new UAW election held, or the names of all candidates added to the ballot in the runoff, Lehman argues.


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