The independent monitor established in the wake of the scandal inside the United Auto Workers union is moving forward with a vote that could change the way union leaders are selected in the future. The move came despite challenges from the union establishment, which signed a consent decree last winter to settle racketeering charges brought against the union.
Ballots are tentatively scheduled to be mailed to roughly 1 million UAW members, including retirees, starting Oct. 12, according to election rules posted on the UAW’s monitor website.
“All UAW members in good standing as of Nov. 1, 2021, are eligible to vote in the Referendum, including members who are part time workers, reinstated members, and retired members,” the rules state.
Setting a new standard
Under union rules, retirees are not allowed to participate in ratification votes. But they are allowed to vote for local union officers and delegates to the UAW’s Constitutional Convention, which normally fills the union’s top positions, including the presidency.
In accordance with the consent decree, the referendum is to be held to settle a single question: whether to keep the current method of using delegates to represent union members at the UAW’s Constitutional Convention to vote for IEB members or change to direct election of officers by each UAW member, in a one-person, one-vote style election.
The mail-in ballots must be returned to the designated collection point or postmarked by Nov. 12 where they will be counted by the monitor and his designated agent under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Monitor notes impasse on election rules
Overshadowing the voting schedule, however, is a shadowy legal impasse, indicating the UAW’s existing leadership would like to have a larger voice in the upcoming campaign apparently to resist the change to direct election of executive board. The impasse could delay the vote, the monitor cautioned.
The idea of direct election, which has long been resisted by the union’s entrenched leadership, appears to have grown more popular among union members in the wake of the scandal. A dozen union officials, including to past presidents, have been convicted of federal crimes, including bribery, embezzlement, tax evasion and mail fraud in the scandal.
The court appointed monitor, Neil Barofsky, noted on the monitoring website there is an “impasse” on the rules and while he doesn’t spell out the remedy, lawyers for the UAW executive apparently are appealing to the judge overseeing the consent decree that led to the monitor’s six-year appointment.
Union challenges monitor’s rules
One of the key points of contention is the rules set out by the monitor prohibit the use of any UAW resources during the campaign. With the scandal tainting the union’s existing leadership, the union’s executive committee appears to believe it needs to be able to use some union resources to wage a campaign to defend the existing system.
For example, the UAW leadership, undoubtedly, likes to use the UAW’s educational center in Black Lake in northern Michigan to wage a quiet campaign against one-person, one vote.
There is a caucus, UAWD, campaigning for change and the union’s entrenched administrative caucus, which has controlled the union’s top offices for 70 years, has a potent fundraising arm. But the challenge to the court-appointed monitor’s rules suggests, the union’s leadership believe the rules leave the administrative caucus at a disadvantage.