The United Auto Workers completed the initial step this week toward selecting top officers this fall through a unionwide election among its dues paying members.
Five candidates were nominated for the office of president and two candidates were nominated to fill the role of Secretary-Treasurer during the UAW’s 38th annual convention.
The nominees for UAW president include Ray Curry, who took over the union’s top office a year after the retirement of Rory Gamble. While Curry is favored, he is being challenged by Sean Fain, who is supported by reform minded Unite All Workers for Democracy, or UAWD, which was instrumental in the passage of the direct election model now in place during a referendum last autumn.
Other nominees for office
Fain, a member of the UAW professional staff who earlier served as the bargaining chairman at the Chrysler plant in Kokomo, Indiana, will be joined on the Brian Keller, a Stellantis employees, who has developed a social media presence with his criticism of corruption in UAW and Mark “Gibby” Gibson, the shop committee chairman of UAW Local 163 where he negotiated a new contract for Detroit Diesel with Daimler AG.
They will be joined on the ballot by Will Lehman, a young worker from Mack Truck in Pennsylvania. Two other potential candidates, James Coakley and John Guinan, were nominated but as retirees they are ineligible to run, according to election rules. The rules for the new election were prepared by the monitor appointed by a federal judge in the wake of the scandal that led to conviction of 12 union officials, including two recent UAW presidents, Gary Jones and Dennis Williams.
The candidates for Secretary Treasurer include Frank Stuglin, who now occupies the post after his selection by the UAW executive board last summer, and Margaret Mock, a member of UAW Local 140 in Warren, Michigan and former financial secretary and shop chairman of UAW Local 961.
In the fall, union members also will elect three vice presidents and regional directors, who sit on the union’s executive board.
Convention had a different tone than those in the past
In the past, the union’s leaders were selected during the constitutional convention, which the UAW just concluded Thursday. Since there was no election during the convention, except for executive board trustee, the bright signs, balloons and noise makers traditionally handed out by the Administrative Caucus before the installation of the president and secretary treasurer were absent.
The more than 800 delegates also reflected the changing face of the union as they included more women and more people of color than in the past as well as a more assertive block of representatives of graduate students and university employees, who have joined the UAW in recent years.
But the Administrative Caucus, which has controlled the union’s internal politics for decades, had to scramble to fight off a large block of reform minded delegates.
The biggest clash revolved around strike pay, which was raised to $400 per week by the union’s executive board last month after a push by UAWD to avoid a clash during the convention. But reformers and more independent-minded delegates did succeed on the third day in calling out a resolution to raise the strike pay to $500 from day one of a work stoppage.
The next day, even though the hike in strike pay was reported on the UAW’s official website, the Administrative Caucus forced a reconsideration and rolled back the increase in the last hours of the convention. This time blocks of delegates, many of them local union officers who depend on the support of union’s professional staff and their resources to resolve local grievances and contract snarls, went along with the motion to reconsider.
Other changes during the convention
The convention also approved a 3% pay increase for top officers raising the UAW president’s salary to $206,000, but not before delegates lined up to speak against the 31% pay increase approved for Jones and other top officers that was pushed through in 2018 with almost no debate. “I’m not against anybody getting a raise,” noted one delegate, “but the 31% increase was a problem.”
The Administration Caucus also succeeded in turning back a resolution that would have restricted the use of the interest on the union’s $825 million strike fund. In 2021, according to the financial report distributed to delegates, the strike fund earned $81 million in interest — UAW policy prohibits the fund from dabbling in the stock market. But about 70% of the earned interest went back to the UAW’s general fund and covered one third of the union’s operating budget of $196 million.
The delegates also pushed through a resolution, calling on the UAW executive board to recover the cost of the monitor, about $12 million annually, responsible for the scandal. The resolution sets up the possibility of a UAW lawsuit against Stellantis, which paid a $30 million fine to the federal government for its role in the scandal, which included bribing UAW officers and staff, a fact mentioned by delegates.