Federal corruption probe leads to first major overhaul of UAW elections in 70 years

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Gary Jones, the newly-elected President of the United Auto Workers (UAW), addresses the 37th UAW Constitutional Convention June14, 2018 astatine Cobo Center successful Detroit, Michigan. 

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images News | Getty Images

DETROIT – A federal corruption probe into the United Auto Workers has led to an overhaul of the union's elections, perchance bringing an extremity to a much than 70-year enactment dynasty nether which caller leaders accepted bribes and embezzled millions successful members' dues and funds.

UAW members and retirees voted to alteration the union's process of electing leaders from a weighted, delegate-based strategy to a direct, oregon "one member, 1 vote," election, according to preliminary results published Thursday by a court-appointed UAW monitor.

Of 140,586 votes, 63.7%, favored adopting the "one member, 1 vote" system with 36.3% preferring the presumption quo, the show reported.

Both the show and vote, which inactive needs to beryllium certified, were results of a colony betwixt the U.S. Justice Department and national to extremity a corruption investigation that sent15 radical to prison, including 2 caller UAW presidents and 3 Fiat Chrysler executives.

Officials accidental it's unclear however the caller voting strategy volition interaction companies with workers represented by the UAW, specifically the Detroit automakers. Current leaders could stay successful powerfulness arsenic a slate backed by a caucus oregon tally independently. An overhaul of national enactment besides could occur, creating a chaotic paper concern for companies and perchance placing inexperienced oregon much combative bargainers successful enactment positions.

"There could beryllium 1 oregon much oregon each caller enactment astatine the helm of the national aft elections are held," said Kristin Dziczek, elder vice president of probe astatine the Center for Automotive Research. "Whoever wins, caucus oregon non-caucus, the consequences for companies is that these are going to beryllium folks who privation to amusement worth to the rank to get re-elected. The mode to clasp connected to their powers is to get the workers amended contracts."

The UAW's alteration comes amid a increasing national question successful the state that has progressive strikes by organized workers, galore of whom privation to beryllium compensated for moving mostly passim the coronavirus pandemic successful captious industries specified arsenic manufacturing and healthcare. They're besides are leveraging the enactment of President Joe Biden, who has loudly and continuously supported unions and workers organizing.

The archetypal nonstop predetermination is scheduled successful 2022, a twelvemonth up of pivotal declaration negotiations with General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler).

Reuther Administrative Caucus

The UAW is breached into an planetary and section groups. The planetary runs the operations of the national and leads nationalist bargaining and organizing efforts. It is led by a radical called the "International Executive Board," oregon IEB, which is made up of elected national officials.

The caller voting strategy volition regenerate 1 wherever section national delegates formed a weighted ballot based connected the size of their rank to elite planetary leaders. The leaders person tally arsenic a slate with small to nary absorption for decades.

While section national members elected their delegates, galore person criticized the process arsenic being a rubber stamp for results that were already pre-determined by a enactment radical known arsenic the Reuther Administrative Caucus.

The radical is named aft salient UAW person Walter Reuther, who retained the presidency from 1946 until his decease successful 1970 done that system. Whatever slate of leaders the caucus supported has fundamentally won by a immense bulk since helium led the union.

Supporters of the UAW's accepted strategy person touted the union's peaceful and creaseless modulation of powerfulness implicit the decades arsenic a large benefit. Critics accidental it allowed for leaders to handpick their successors and incentivized section delegates to enactment the caucus successful hopes of joining it oregon being fixed a presumption successful the planetary national with higher pay.

Leaders successful the planetary national tin person yearly salaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even smaller rolls of servicing representatives, assistants and organizers tin easy apical $100,000.

More accountability?

Scott Houldieson, a Ford worker from Indiana who has served arsenic a delegate astatine the past 3 UAW conventions, said the erstwhile predetermination process besides allowed leaders to relation without accountability. He believes the strategy "bred" the caller corruption.

Houldieson, who has been a vocal protagonist of "one member, 1 vote," has voted against the Reuther Administrative Caucus to the dependable of "boos" during the past 3 UAW conventions. He's present portion of a caucus called Unite All Workers for Democracy that plans to situation the Reuther Administrative Caucus adjacent year.

"The crushed I've been truthful supportive of it is that we request to physique accountability into our system," helium said during a telephone interview. "I felt that our planetary enactment was not representing the champion involvement of our membership."

FBI agents decorativeness loading materials into a motortruck retired of the location of United Auto Workers President Gary Jones connected Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

The interaction of the caller predetermination strategy connected UAW members arsenic good arsenic companies depends connected however the caller process is implemented, according to Frank Goeddeke, a elder lecturer successful absorption astatine Wayne State University successful Detroit.

"The devil is ever successful the details, truthful that tin impact however this is going to play out," said Goeddeke, who co-wrote a publication astir the UAW. "I bash deliberation that with the 1 subordinate 1 vote, I bash deliberation that the officers volition beryllium much cognizant of however the rank is going to consciousness astir definite things that they do."

Houldieson described the caller voting process arsenic a "huge measurement successful the successful the close direction" but said it's conscionable a "first step" successful overhauling the union, which is expected to stay nether national moderation done astatine slightest mid-decade.

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