Auto workers are likely to advocate direct election of executives | Michigan News


By TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer

DETROIT (AP) – Members of the United Auto Workers union appear to be voting for their leaders in direct elections.

Of 72% of the ballots counted, nearly 63% are in favor of direct elections, while around 37% want to keep the current system of delegates who elect the union leadership.

A federal court-appointed observer who conducted the election said on its website on Wednesday that the votes for direct elections “have exceeded a threshold that suggests it will win more votes than the delegate system and will prevail”.

Direct elections received 65,136 of the previously counted ballots, while 38,503 delegates wanted to vote. The results are unofficial and the full census is unlikely to be done until Thursday, the website said.

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Union Commissioner Neil Barofsky said just over 143,000 ballots had been received by Monday’s closing date. Election results must be approved by the Department of Labor and a federal judge before they are official.

Barofsky was appointed by a federal judge earlier this year as part of a settlement that prevented the 397,000-member union from taking over government following a widespread corruption scandal. The vote on the direct election of heads of state and government was also part of the agreement.

Union leaders are currently elected at a congress every four years, with delegates selected by the local union offices. But the new list of leaders is chosen by the outgoing president, and there is seldom serious opposition.

If the members agree to direct elections, a vote on the leadership will take place before June next year.

The vote and monitor are part of a December 2020 deal between former UAW President Rory Gamble and former US Attorney Matthew Schneider in Detroit that prevented the government from taking over the union.

Schneider saw direct elections as a way to hold union leaders accountable for their actions.

But Gamble, who retired on June 30, said at the time that direct elections would allow anti-union groups to spread disinformation. He added that the delegation system gives minorities, women and members outside the automotive sector a voice in the selection of executives.

Gamble, who was replaced by Ray Curry, was not charged in the federal investigation. He said the union is now clean and will take precautions to prevent the scandal from happening again.

Eleven union officials and the spouse of a deceased official pleaded guilty to the corruption investigation since 2017, including the two presidents who served before Gamble, Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. Both were sentenced to prison terms.

Not all convictions were related. The first wave, which was also attended by some Fiat Chrysler employees, involved bribes from a Fiat Chrysler UAW training center in Detroit. Jones and Williams became embroiled in an embezzlement scheme in which leaders took thousands of dollars in union money to buy golf clubs, alcohol, sumptuous meals, and rent expensive mansions in Palm Springs, California.

During the investigation, Schneider, who led the investigation, said the corruption was so deep that the federal government could take over the union.

The US Attorney’s Office said it uncovered over $ 1.5 million fraud in dues, kickbacks to union officials from salespeople, and $ 3.5 million in illegal payments from Fiat Chrysler executives who attempted to corrupt contract negotiations.

Barofsky, who will remain in office for six years unless both sides agree to a shorter term, heads the monitorship practice at Jenner & Block.

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