A group within the United Auto Workers challenged the union’s established leadership, asking a federal judge for a larger voice in reforming the UAW.
One of the key requests in the petition by the United All Workers for Democracy or UAWD is for a voice in the selection of the monitor and administrative officer, who will oversee the union’s internal activities for the next six years.
The monitor will have no role in collective bargaining but will establish the rules used for critical internal elections. Under the consent decree signed by the union’s top officer last month, the UAW submits a list of names and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan selects then selects the monitor.
Group takes fight to court
In the brief filed with the court, UAWD wants a voice in process to ensure the monitor isn’t simply a rubber stamp for the union hierarchy. They contend the current leadership is looking for a way to evade accountability for the scandals that have engulfed the union for the last three years and wrecked its reputation for honesty.
The petition also calls for additional measures to curb the influence of the Administration Caucus, which has controlled the union’s internal affairs for more than 70 years, including during last decade when federal investigators have said the union became mired in corruption.
“We are hopeful that Federal District Court Judge David Lawson will grant our motion,” said Justin Mayhugh, co-chair of UAWD.
He noted the group believes although criminal prosecutions are important, they’ll have a limited effect without reforms to the system that allowed corruption to take root.
“During the entire process between the government and the UAW International Union in deciding what reforms would be imposed on the union, the UAW membership has never once been consulted,” added Mayhugh.
“It is the membership of the union that has paid for the corruption of those who betrayed us, and it is the membership of the union that will have to work and live under the provisions agreed to in the Consent Decree. Why the membership hasn’t been allowed a voice in these discussions is troubling.”
Reformers want checks and balances
Scott Houldieson, chairperson of UAWD, said the group wants a viable set of “checks and balances” to prevent a replay of the last few years. He added the union’s “spent millions of dues dollars on legal fees incurred to defend the indefensible. Contracts that were negotiated by corrupted individuals are suspect to UAW members.”
The UAWD wants direct election of the union’s top officers, a change reformers have sought for more than 30 years.
Rory Gamble, UAW president and the unofficial leader of the Administration Caucus, said recently he believes the current system of election by delegates to the union’s constitutional convention has served the union well throughout the years.
The election process wasn’t corrupt, the people put in office violated their oaths, he said.
Caucus in charge for seven decades
The Consent Decree calls for a referendum election of the UAW membership to decide whether the convention delegates system will remain or whether the membership will elect the top officers of its union through a direct vote.
The Administration Caucus has been in total control of the UAW for the last 70 years. All of the Administration Caucus candidates for the leadership of the UAW have been elected, almost always running unopposed.
On the rare occasions when there was opposition, strong-arm tactics were employed by the Administration Caucus to achieve victory, Mayhugh and Houldieson noted.
One reason the membership of the union gets saddled with corrupt leaders is the one-party state within the UAW. This one-party system of electing International Officers cultivated a culture of corruption at the highest levels of the union, they said.