The nominating process at the convention will test whether reformers can break the grip of the Administration Caucus, which has ruled the union for 70 years, writes Jonah Furman.
By Jonah Furman
Auto Workers (UAW) members made history last November, winning direct elections of national officers (“one member, one vote”) in a membership referendum. Now delegates are headed to a Constitutional Convention where candidates will be nominated for the top slots.
The whole process will put to the test whether reformers can break the iron grip of the Administration Caucus, the one party that has ruled the union for 70 years.
Winning direct elections was the first hurdle. The next, formidable hurdles are: Will a credible slate of challengers form? Will a majority of members vote for change? And can new leaders and constitutional changes turn things around for the UAW?
The election will cover 14 positions: president, secretary-treasurer, three vice presidents (traditionally assigned to each of the Big Three automakers: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler), plus nine regional directors. The Justice Department’s appointed monitor released election rules May 11.
Candidates will be nominated at the convention, Monday to Thursday this week. Ballots will be mailed Oct. 17 and counted Nov. 29.
The road to the referendum was paved with corruption: officials embezzling and misusing funds and taking bribes from an employer. Many auto workers are frustrated at years of contract concessions that have allowed automakers to build a two-tier workforce, with the number of temporary and lower-paid workers ballooning.
Neil Barofsky, the federal monitor assigned to clean up the scandal-ridden Auto Workers, issued his third report on the state of anti-corruption reform among UAW leadership on July 19, days before the union’s convention.
The report details the monitor’s extreme frustration with union officials’ stonewalling over many months, stating that “the Union’s cooperativeness veered sharply in the wrong direction.”
Top officers “repeatedly failed to even respond to the Monitor’s requests for interviews and documents” and concealed evidence of a high official’s “mishandling of a sum of cash.”
After a stern meeting with the Department of Justice, UAW President Ray Curry reportedly agreed to “a total reset” of the union’s relationship to the monitor, after which relations apparently improved.
As the monitor notes, “At present, the Union once again appears to be on the right track. To be sure, this is not the first time the Monitor is expressing optimism about the UAW’s cooperation after a change of approach by the Union.”
There are still 19 open investigations into UAW leadership conduct, five of them are new investigations since the last report. One official, a former assistant regional director, has been expelled from the union for life for involvement in corruption, while another local union official faces charges for embezzling $2 million dollars over a decade.
The monitor also expressed alarm over the purchase of $95,000 of merchandise, including 1,500 backpacks emblazoned with the name of Frank Stuglin, who is currently running for re-election as secretary-treasurer. The union adopted a rule to end such practices, embroidered over the names on the backpacks and stopped distributing the rest of the merchandise.
The reform group Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD) has put forward a platform for delegate candidates with the motto, “No Corruption. No Tiers. No Concessions!” Dozens of UAWD members have been elected delegates by their locals on this platform.
UAWD has also built a slate, though the group’s steering committee is still considering additional endorsements. More details on its candidates are below.
A majority of convention delegates will be products of the UAW’s entrenched system and culture, though UAWD will be a notable presence. The reformers’ goal is to convince fellow delegates that their union is best served by the reform spirit shown by members in the referendum last year.
UAWD is putting forward eight resolutions. One is a constitutional amendment to ban the practice of negotiating tiers in contracts. Another calls for the union to hire 100 new organizers to carry out an aggressive organizing strategy in the growing electric vehicle industry.
Another resolution calls for fighting discrimination by pushing to hire more women and people of color into skilled trades positions and instituting more union-led education to reinforce the principle “an injury to one is an injury to all.”
Another UAWD resolution would have called for strike pay to be increased from $275 a week to $400. On June 7, however, the UAW Executive Board announced that it was adopting this increase in advance of the convention — a sign that the incumbents are trying to get out in front of the opposition on this issue.
At least 24 locals representing 180,000 members had voted to back the increase in strike pay, including some of the largest auto locals and two John Deere locals.
UAWD is still pushing for strike pay to be paid starting on the first day of a strike, rather than the eighth; the Teamsters adopted a similar resolution at their convention last year.
The union has declined to put on the convention agenda any of the resolutions backed by the reform group Unite All Workers for Democracy and passed in numerous locals (with one exception, a voting rules item insisted upon by the Monitor).
A resolution not formally recommended by one of the constitutional committees (which UAWD’s resolutions were never likely to be) could still be brought to the floor if someone makes a motion and 15 percent of the delegates support it. Once heard, a resolution would need a majority of the delegates’ votes to pass.
The Administration Caucus has a full slate of 14, eight of whom currently hold office, including President Ray Curry, Secretary-Treasurer Frank Stuglin, and Vice President Chuck Browning.
The challengers for president who have publicly announced are Shawn Fain, an international representative originally out of Local 1166 who is breaking with the Administration Caucus; Brian Keller of Local 1248 in Warren, Michigan, who runs the popular “UAW Real Talk” page on Facebook; Will Lehman, a member of Local 677; and two retirees, former international rep John Guinan and former international rep and Local 1200 President Jim Coakley.
Rich Boyer, former president of Local 961 at Chrysler’s Detroit Axle plant, is running for Stellantis vice president on a slate with Guinan.
However, it’s still up in the air whether Guinan and Coakley are eligible to run. In May, the monitor ruled that the constitution was silent on whether retirees were eligible to hold top office, so the current president could decide. Curry then ruled retirees ineligible, disqualifying two of his three opponents. Their supporters hope to put the question to the convention itself.
Fain is running on a UAWD-backed slate, UAW Members United, with Margaret Mock, former shop chair in Local 961, for secretary-treasurer, and LaShawn English, president of Local 1264 at the Stellantis Stamping Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, for Region 1 director. UAWD is still considering other endorsements.
A candidate who’s not part of any slate is former Lordstown General Motors local President Dave Green who is running for Region 2B director. Green prominently fought the closing of the Lordstown plant in 2018, attracting the ire of former President Donald Trump and ran an unsuccessful bid for regional director in 2020.
Daniel Vicente, recording secretary of Local 644 at Dometic, is running for Region 9 director, and seeking UAWD’s endorsement. In a statement, Vicente said, “Honestly, I’m a husband and father of four from the shop floor, tired of complaining about leadership. Change is coming for our union.”
Jonah Furman is a staff writer and organizer for Labor Notes.
This article is from Labor Notes.
The Ballot of the UAW!
S C O R E!!! “Will Lehman is NOMINATED to run for UAW president by two delegates from the floor of the UAW 38th Constitutional Convention in Detroit on Wednesday, 7/27/22, afternoon.”
“Two delegates at the convention made the nominations despite considerable intimidation by the UAW bureaucracy, which tried to keep Lehman off the ballot.”
“The first to nominate him was a veteran factory worker from Detroit. “I stand up to nominate Will Lehman from UAW Local 677 as president of the UAW,” (Veteran Factory Worker from Detroit). “He used the rest of his allotted five minutes to criticize the “thieves” in the UAW bureaucracy, saying that members of the current UAW International Executive Board “covered up misdeeds.”
When UAW Vice President Terry Dittes and many delegates on the floor tried to interrupt him, the worker stood his ground and declared that any IEB member who was complicit in the coverup of the corruption should “find a different career.
Several minutes later, “I want to nominate Will Lehman for president. This guy wants to put the power back into our hands. He wants us to make the decisions about our union: what we do, how we do it. That’s all he wants to do. Bureaucracy, he doesn’t want that. He wants us to make the decisions about benefits, our service, internationally, with other unions, respectfully, equally, together.” Delegate from Chicago.” (wsws.org)
Nomination Accepted!!! Will Lehman vs. Ray Curry + other candidates “in the UAW’s first direct election in more than 70 years.” (Ballots will be mailed Oct. 17 and counted Nov. 29).
Excellent article! Well, the old saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is as true today as it was when Lord Acton phrased those words in Un-Merry old England.
I hope the rank and file are successful in taking back their union and reestablish union democracy. It won’t be an easy task either!
Neither the Repulsive Party or the DemoRATS really support labor unions but people (those who vote) keep electing and or re-electing them over and over and still can’t understand why things are regressing rather than progressing for the average working person.
I’m still waiting for Congress to repeal the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act, but not holding my breath for it to happen.
Walter and Victor Reuther worked very hard in building a strong UAW union and it was the first labor union (to my knowledge) which negotiated employer-paid health insurance for it’s members and their families. They’d have tears in their eyes if they saw what happened to the UAW these past several decades.
The article mentions Will Lehman, a worker at Mack Trucks in Pennsylvania, running for UAW President, not to replace one bureaucrat with another, but to clear out the apparatus and place power back in the hands of the rank and file workers. His letter to the UAW delegates is available here: hxxps://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2022/07/23/lett-j23.html. …
“In this campaign, I am advancing a program of struggle. It is high time that workers throughout the UAW, in unity with all sections of the working class, launch a coordinated fight to demand and win what we need, including, as a beginning: Massive pay increases, mandatory COLA to match inflation, an end to all tiers and permanent TPTs, full funding of pensions and high-quality health care for workers and retirees, and the re-establishment of the 8-hour day.” …
… “I am running for president of the UAW International to spearhead a mass movement of the rank-and-file to break the domination of the apparatus and to transfer power and control over all decision-making processes to workers in the auto plants and all work locations. If the UAW is to exist, it has to be an organization of the workers, by the workers and for the workers.”
Yes, the article mentioned him only in passing, but he’s the best of them. He understands that there needs to be international solidarity. He also gets that the union no longer serves the workers.
“WINNING Direct Elections was the first hurdle,”
“The ONLY reason the union’s 391,000 active and 580,000 retired members WILL HAVE the RIGHT TO VOTE for the top leadership positions this year is that the UAW has been put UNDER the oversight of a COURT-APPOINTED Monitor.
Last year, workers voted by a 2-to-1 margin in favor of direct elections, a change that was adamantly opposed by current UAW President Ray Curry and the rest of the apparatus.” (The FULL Context/EXTENSIVE Coverage, of ALL the $TRIKES the MSM/Cable Network News NEVER talk about, IS @ wsws.org).
Props to Jonah Furman, for outstanding reporting!!!” & CN for publishing.
“EL CAPITALISMO ES EL VIRUZ.”
……”But mine is the only campaign stressing that we need an international movement of the working class to combat the international character of capitalism. Production is global, and our struggles must be united globally.” Will Lehman, UAW presidential candidate, Local 677, Pennsylvania Mack Trucks.
“The convention is being held under the slogan, “Building Our Tomorrow Today,” which was selected by the UAW to be as empty and meaningless as possible.
“Platitudes don’t pay our bills,” Lehman said. “They don’t back our fights. The UAW is supposed to be a workers’ organization, not a big business. But that is not its nature. It is a business, and its perspective is bankrupt. The apparatus is entirely detached from the shop floor and what workers really need.” WILL LEHMAN, a Member of Local 677, “Pennsylvania Mack Trucks worker and socialist candidate for president of the United Auto Workers.”
Onward & Upwards. The DoJ met w/UAW President Ray Curry. Curry “reportedly agreed to “a total reset” of the union’s relationship to the monitor, after which relations apparently improved. As the monitor notes, “At present, the Union once again appears to be on the right track. TO BE SURE, this is not the first time the Monitor is expressing optimism about the UAW’s cooperation after a change of approach by the Union.” “Restless feet may walk into a snake pit.” (Ethiopian proverb)
Maybe I’m too hopeful, but this fight for worker representation at the UAW over corrupt leadership, is hopefully on a parallel course with initiatives for democratic representation at all levels of government aiming to throw out our corrupt “leadership” at the DNC/GOP PARTY level that has mismanaged our economy; opting to serve a disastrous for profit war machine that pads the pockets of an oligarchic imperialist set of greed wagons while bankrupting this country and constitutionally abusing the people who serve.
“A majority of convention delegates will be products of the UAW’s entrenched system and culture, though UAWD will be a notable presence.”
In other words, ‘the system’ will make sure that this stays a ‘company union’. What, did you think you were living in a democracy or something?
Yeah, not easy to be hopeful these days with entrenched interests’ claws reaching out of the grave just when it seems that democratic voices are in the air.