The United Auto Workers’ court-appointed monitor began the task this week of counting the votes in the union’s first-ever direct election for the organization’s top offices and executive board.
The monitor’s elections officer has more than 106,000 votes to count and has not yet said when the tally will be completed. Unofficial counts suggest incumbent president, Ray Curry, may be in trouble.
Runoff for presidency possible
But with roughly 14% of the vote counted, according to unofficial tallies supplied by the contending slates, the race for UAW president could headed for a runoff, since no candidate is polling anywhere near 50 percent.
If no candidate gets to 50% there will be a runoff with union members and retirees voting again and the race probably won’t be decided until in early March, according to the timetable set by the monitor, who was put in place under the terms of a racketeering suit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of an effort to ride the UAW of corruption.
The partial returns for the organization’s top job show Shawn Fain, head of the reform-minded “Members United Slate,” leading incumbent Curry, who assumed the union’s presidency in June 2021 when his predecessor Rory Gamble retired before the end of his term, with large number of votes yet to count.
Surprises in races for Regional Director
The Members United slate, however, appears to have forced a runoff, for the regional director’s executive board seat from Region 9 in northeastern United States, the Members United candidate for the executive board seat from Region 1, which covers the east side of the Detroit Metropolitan area also appears to be building a lead over the candidate backed by the “Curry Solidarity” party.
The counting began Tuesday after one of the five candidates for the UAW presidency, Will Lehman, failed in his bid to give UAW members and retirees an additional 30 days to mail-in ballots to the Monitor’s elections officer.
During a hearing last week in front of U.S. District Judge David Lawson, attorneys for the UAW and the monitor argued against the extension, saying neither Lehman nor his attorney demonstrated the procedures put in place for delivering ballots to members were handled improperly.
The UAW’s attorney, Michael Roth, also noted any further delay in the election could hurt the union’s planning for the union’s pivotal negotiations with Detroit’s three automakers, which are scheduled to get underway in the summer of 2023.
Lawson, however, did ask questions about how the voter list was prepared and whey the turnout for the election was so low given its importance to union members. Only about 10% of the 1 million union members and retirees had returned their ballots to the elections officer at the time of hearing. The number of ballots returned did increase over the holiday weekend but was still only a fraction of those eligible vote in what is a historic election for the UAW.
The election was, in part, a result of the scandal that sent a dozen union officials and officers, including two past UAW Presidents, Dennis Williams and Gary Jones, to jail.