The UAW’s court-appointed monitor told Ray Curry, the current president of the United Auto Workers, he will not order a new runoff election for the UAW presidency, throwing open the door for challenger Shawn Fain to become the first UAW President directly elected by the union’s membership.
In a footnote attached to the report he filed late Friday with the federal judge in Detroit responsible for overseeing the racketeering settlement between the UAW and U.S. Department of Justice, the monitor, Neil Barofsky, said Curry, who is trailing Fain by 505 votes with roughly 600 left to count, could file an appeal only after a winner is declared.
Footnote holds the key
“In the evening of March 15, 2023, the night before the scheduled resumption of the vote count, counsel for the Curry Solidarity Team lodged a protest alleging that, inter alia, flaws in the administration of aspects of the 2023 Run-Off Election require the Monitor to defer the announcement of unofficial results of the Run-Off Election and instead schedule another Run-Off Election,” the footnote to Barofsky’s report noted.
“Upon preliminary review of the submission, the Monitor determined that there was no basis for such extraordinary action and denied the request. The Curry Solidarity Team submission will instead be treated as a protest in the ordinary course,” the note continued, meaning Curry would have to wait until Fain is declared the winner to file an appeal.
Under the election rules laid out by the Monitor and approved by a federal judge, Curry bears the burden of presenting evidence of the alleged improper conduct during the runoff election.
The Monitor’s election officer could declare a winner after counting some are all of the challenged ballots. Local union officials still must verify the uncounted ballots were cast by someone eligible to vote in the election. Curry also can appeal to the U.S. Department of Labor. But Labor Department precedent would require Fain take office as UAW president.
Former UAW president asks for quick settlement
Former UAW President Bob King wrote directly to the monitor, asking him to end any confusion around the union’s top office as soon as possible. Inside the union, King’s letter was widely considered as a rebuke to Curry for delaying the inevitable result of the vote.
“I think asking you to delay the announcement and/or final counting of the remaining challenged ballots is detrimental to the overall UAW membership and full preparation for the upcoming bargaining. It is in the best interest of the membership to swear in the next president whether that is Ray Curry or Shawn Fain before the Special Bargaining Convention, and I encourage all candidates and the Monitor’s office to work expediently towards that out come,” King said in a letter to Barofsky, who was appointed monitor in 2021 after the UAW executive board settled a racketeering lawsuit brought against the UAW by federal authorities.
Curry was a member of the UAW executive board who signed off on the settlement, which also called for a referendum to determine whether the union’s top offices through a direct election among UAW members.
Running the course
Meanwhile, Fain counseled patience and told supporters to let the election process play out in full.
“By now, the writing is on the wall: change is coming to the UAW. Let’s count every vote and get to work on putting the membership back in the driver’s seat of our union. We’re pressing the Monitor to resolve the remaining challenged ballots as quickly as possible. You, the members, have already made history in this election, and we’re just getting started. It’s a new day in the UAW,” Fain, a member of the union’s professional staff and former Local union official in Kokomo, Indiana.
If Fain is elected, reformers running in opposition to the Administration Caucus, which has dominated the UAW for more than 70 years, will have a majority on the International Executive Board.
The racketeering settlement, the referendum, and the election last fall and this winter to decide who fills the top union offices, followed a scandal in which 12 UAW officers, including two past presidents, were sentenced to prison for violations of federal labor law.
Curry’s “Solidarity Team” relied on the support of the union’s old guard, including union staff and Local union officers, who, according to various social media posts, campaigned hard to defeat the challengers but still fell short in a contest expected to be decided by a few hundred votes.
Ironically, Curry was left to argue about deficiencies in the election process, including inaccurate mailing lists that left scores of members without ballots — a charge that Will Lehman, a who finished fourth in the contest for president in the first round, made after the first round of voting. At the time UAW attorneys argued in court the union had made a good faith effort to ensure the accuracy of the mailing list and every member received a ballot.