Ballots are headed to members of the United Auto Workers this week.
The federal consent decree created in the wake of the UAW’s massive corruption scandal requires a union-wide vote on whether its leadership should be elected directly by its membership. Right now the International Executive Board is elected through a delegate system.
Eric Truss is a member of Local 600 and of Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD), a caucus within the UAW that has been campaigning for direct elections.
“It gives the membership a hand in who they choose, which we hope will bring more accountability,” Truss says.
“It gives the membership a hand in who they choose, which we hope will bring more accountability.” –Eric Truss, Local 600 and of Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD)
Last week a federal court denied a joint motion from the UAW and the Department of Justice to modify the consent decree. The union wanted to use what’s called “incidental” campaigning about the upcoming vote. It is prohibited from campaigning on the issue by the terms of the federal agreement.
But Michael Cannon, a retiree, former international rep and advocate for direct elections, says the UAW has not even provided members with basic information about the vote.
“The UAW has not advertised the referendum,” Cannon says. “And that’s one of the complaints that we have is that they haven’t taken the time to adequately notify the membership, that this referendum exists and it’s going to happen.”
“They told me directly they don’t plan to do anything on getting information out,” Truss says. “They said when the ballots come in the mail that’s sufficient.”
The federal monitor who is overseeing the referendum — and union operations for three years — sent postcards to members this summer alerting them of the upcoming vote. The monitor had hoped to confirm the mailing addresses for current members and retirees.
Truss says members who did not receive the postcards can’t expect to receive a ballot. So, without the union’s help informing members there is a referendum, many members will not know.
The government has not always required a vote on direct elections as a part of similar agreements.
Cannon says after the Teamsters and Longshore Workers unions had their own bouts with corruption when direct elections were written into the consent decree.
“As far as I know, there’s no other case that exists where the membership had to vote through a referendum to decide whether or not they wanted to directly elect the top officers of the Union after the union and union officers have been convicted of massive corruption,” Cannon says.
Ballots are scheduled for mailing Oct. 29 and must be received by the monitor by Nov. 29.