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UAW Runoff Election Gets Underway


With the union at a historic crossroads, ballots in the runoff election for presidency of the United Auto Workers were mailed out this week to more than 1 million active and retired members.

UAW debate on zoom
On the eve of the runoff election for the UAW, Ray Curry, top left, and Shawn Fain, bottom right, faced off in a debate.

As the ballots traveled to votes, the two candidates, incumbent Ray Curry and challenger Shawn Fain, squared off in a virtual debate organized by the UAW’s court-appointed monitor.

Curry, who was appointed UAW President by the union’s executive board in July 2021 after his predecessor, Rory Gamble, retired before the end of his term, stressed his experience and his own record as a reformer, during the debate Jan. 12. 

“I’ve done the work each and every day,” said Curry, who emphasized the union is facing critical negotiations with Detroit’s automakers and other key employers in the months to come.

But Fain, a member of the UAW’s staff who came within 600 votes of Curry during the first round of voting, noted union members have an opportunity in the runoff “to change the course of our union.”

Old guard losing grip on board

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

In the first round last fall, 62% of the voting union members selected a candidate other than Curry, the leader of a slate organized by the administrative caucus, which has run the union’s internal politics for more than 70 years, said Fain.

Fain described Curry as an “insider” who opposed reforms such as the one-member, one-vote campaign that gave union members a direct voice in selecting its top leadership for the first time. “This is our shot to take back our union,” said Fain. “We can change the company union philosophy,” that has undermined the UAW’s bargaining power during the years.

Fain and Curry did agree the organization had to do more to protect the union’s female members from any kind of sexual harassment, and the need for automatic cost-of-living adjustments in any new contracts in the auto industry.

Ballots due back end of February

The ballots in the run-off election must be returned to the Monitor’s election officer by Feb. 28. The election officer is slated to be counting the ballots March 1.

UAW reform candidate Shawn Fain
Shawn Fain, head of the reform-minded “Members United Slate,” is reportedly leading Curry in early returns.

Not only will Curry and Fain face off during the runoff for the UAW presidency but two candidates, aligned with the union’s old guard are contending for one remaining vice presidency. After falling short in the first round, Chuck Browning, the current head of the UAW’s Ford Department is favored over Tim Bressler, who finished fourth during the first round of voting.

Dan Vincente, a candidate from Fain’s “Members United” slate is facing Lauren Farrell in the contest for Regional Director in UAW Region 9 in the Northeastern U.S. Vincente led during first round but fell short of the 50% threshold required for election.

Big changes already

The first round of voting last fall resulted in a significant shift on the union’s executive board. 

The new executive board includes a block of six reformers, including five from the “Members United” slate and one independent, who are vowing to push the union to rebuild in the wake of a scandal, which cost the union its reputation for honesty and to ensure the everyday concerns of members and retirees are heard.

UAW candidate Will Lehman
Supports of one-time UAW Presidential candidate Will Lehman are likely to vote for Fain rather than Curry.

The reform block includes Margaret Mock, the union’s new financial secretary. Curry said during the debate he is prepared to work with the reformers. The reformers are also calling for pay increases, pension improvements, more time off and an end to the tiered wage schedules, which have prevailed since the 2008 recession.

Even though he beat out Fain during the first round, Curry faces an uphill campaign in this round of voting. First round voters, who cast ballots for the third- and fourth-place finishers, Brian Keller and Will Lehman, appear more likely to align with Fain than Curry this time around.

Keller, who got 15% of the vote in the first round, campaigned against the corruption at the top of union and tied Curry to Gary Jones, the former UAW President, who went to federal prison for embezzling more than $1 million in union dues money. Jones was instrumental in securing the Financial Secretary post for Curry at UAW’s Constitutional Convention in 2018.

Curry, however, appears to have a base of support in the UAW’s Ford Department.

Both sides are also trying to expand the size of the electorate during the runoff. Only about 10% of the eligible voters turned in ballots during the first round and the low turnout was another embarrassment to the union, which traditionally had taken pride in the active participation of its members in union affairs, politics and even organizing.


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