It's a new day in the United Auto Workers union. Fueled by anger at concessions, corruption, and two-tier deals, members are set to elect Shawn Fain as International Union President in the first one-member, one-vote election in UAW history. Fain is backed by the rank-and-file movement Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD).
It was nail-biter, reminding us that every vote counts. Fain's victory has been delayed by two weeks to take time to process the challenged ballots that had been setaside in the count.
When the dust is settled, Fain's winning margin will be less than 1,000 votes out of 141,000 mail-in ballots received. As of Thursday night, Fain had a 505-vote edge, 69,386 to 68,881, over incumbent Ray Curry, who was appointed by the union’s executive board in 2021.
There are still around 600 unresolved challenged ballots—enough that more need to be disqualified or counted, but not enough to change the election outcome.
“By now, the writing is on the wall: change is coming to the UAW,” said Fain. “You, the members, have already made history in this election, and we’re just getting started. It’s a new day in the UAW.”
Six other UAWD-backed candidates were elected to the International Executive Board, including Secretary Treasurer Margaret Mock, two Vice Presidents and three District Directors.
The incumbent “Administration Caucus” won only positions that were not contested by the reform movement.
Bill Parker, the retired former president of UAW Local 1700 and a veteran of insurgent movements inside the UAW, summed it up: “It shows that the members not only want an end to corruption, but also they want the UAW to again be a fighting union. Shawn Fain and the Members United group are committed to working to make it happen.”
2023 Contract Fight at the Big Three
Shawn Fain started as a skilled trades worker at a Chrysler plant in Indiana, and rose to be the shop chair and then an International Representative.
He and the other UAW Members United candidates ran under the banner of “No Corruption, No Concessions, No Tiers,” key issues for auto workers.
Fain and the reform team take office at a challenging time: the Big Three auto contracts–Chrysler, Ford and General Motors–expire on September 14. Those pacts make up the biggest contracts being negotiated this year, except for UPS.
The Big Three contracts allow widespread use of lower-tier workers and even temps, so the union is starting out in a deep hole.
How UAW Members Made History
Auto workers, like Teamsters, are fed up with concessions and tiered contracts.
That’s why a dedicated reform movement could come out of nowhere and beat a political machine, the Administration Caucus, which has run the UAW for 70 years.
That movement is called Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD). Like TDU, they were the driving force behind winning the right to elect International officers in a referendum on that issue.
Scott Houldieson, a UAWD leader and worker at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant, said “ It’s a new day – a transition from company-unionism to solidarity unionism. From black-out to transparency with the members. UAWD was the driving force behind winning our right to vote for officers. We took inspiration from TDU, and took the issues to the members to win this victory.”
TDU congratulates Shawn Fain, UAW Members United, and the UAWD movement on this historic victory.
Read more in this report from Labor Notes.