Auto workers likely to endorse direct election of leaders


FILE – United Auto Workers members take part in the Labor Day parade in Detroit on September 2, 2019. United Auto Workers union members appear to be in favor of choosing their leaders in direct elections. A Federal Court-appointed observer who conducts the elections said on his website on Wednesday, December 1, 2021, that 65,136 ballots had been cast in favor of the direct elections, while 38,503 wanted the vote of the delegates. The results are not official and the full tally is unlikely to be taken until Thursday, the website said. (AP Photo / Paul Sancya, file)


Members of the United Auto Workers union will apparently endorse their leadership choice in direct elections.

With 72% of the ballots counted, nearly 63% are in favor of direct elections, while around 37% want to keep the current system of selecting union leaders.

A Federal Court-appointed observer responsible for the conduct of the elections said on his website on Wednesday that votes in favor of direct elections “have crossed a threshold which indicates that it will receive more votes than the delegate system and the will take away “.

The direct elections have received 65,136 of the ballots counted so far, while 38,503 wanted the delegate vote. The results are not official and the full tally is unlikely to be taken until Thursday, the website said.

Just over 143,000 ballots were received by Monday’s mailing deadline, according to union comptroller Neil Barofsky. Election results must be approved by the Ministry of Labor and a federal judge before they are official.

Barofsky was appointed by a federal judge earlier this year in a settlement that avoided a government takeover of the 397,000-member union after a massive corruption scandal. Voting on the direct election of officers was also part of the regulations.

Currently, union leaders are chosen every four years at a convention, with delegates chosen by local union offices. But the new roster is chosen by the outgoing president, and there is rarely serious opposition.

If members approve the direct elections, a leadership vote will take place before June of next year.

The vote and the monitor are part of a December 2020 deal between former UAW President Rory Gamble and former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider in Detroit that delayed government action to take over the union.

Schneider saw direct elections as a way to hold union leaders accountable for their actions.

But Gamble, who retired on June 30, said at the time that direct elections would allow anti-union groups to spread disinformation. He added that the delegation system gives minorities, women and members outside the automotive sector a voice in choosing leadership.

Gamble, who has been replaced by Ray Curry, has not been charged in the federal inquiry. He said the union is now clean and will have safeguards to prevent the scandal from happening again.

Eleven union officials and the wife of a former official have pleaded guilty in the corruption investigation since 2017, including the two presidents who served before Gamble, Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. Both were sentenced to prison.

Not all of the convictions were tied. The first wave, which included Fiat Chrysler employees, involved money paid in the form of bribes from a Fiat Chrysler-UAW training center in Detroit. Jones and Williams were caught in an embezzlement scheme, with executives taking thousands of dollars in union money to buy golf clubs, booze, lavish meals and to rent expensive villas in Palm Springs, in California.

During the investigation, Schneider, who led the investigation, said the corruption was so deep that the federal government could take over the union.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it discovered more than $ 1.5 million in embezzlement in dues, bribes to union officials from suppliers and $ 3.5 million in illegal payments from suppliers. Fiat Chrysler executives who wanted to corrupt contract negotiations.

Barofsky, who will remain in office for six years unless the two parties agree to a shorter term, leads the oversight practice at the law firm Jenner & Block.

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