UAW members are voting this month in a runoff election in the union’s first ever direct election of officers in its 88 year history.
Shawn Fain, an electrician by trade, was about 600 votes behind incumbent president Ray Curry in the first round of voting last December.
Four opposition candidates took 62% of the votes cast while Curry received 38%. Only 11% of members voted in the first round. Ballots are due by the end of the month.
“After visiting work sites throughout the country in the summer and fall and the winter, the common theme’s really been that the membership wants change” Fain told WDET. “If you look at the referendum vote, where we voted for ‘one member one vote’, and if you look at the first round of the votes, the membership’s been very clear that anywhere from 60% to 65% of the voters vote for change.”
The election comes as a result of a consent decree with the federal government to settle corruption charges.
There have already been more ballots returned in the runoff than there were votes cast in the first round, according to the UAW monitor who is overseeing the election.
Fain said that two other presidential candidates from the first round, Mark “Gibby” Gibson and Brian Keller, have endorsed him and helped him campaign during the runoff.
“The four of us that ran against Curry, we all ran for the same reason. We aren’t happy with how things are and we want change,” Fain said. “I think it’s in the best interest of people that supported one of the other candidates in the last go ‘round (to) come our way because obviously the reason everyone ran against the Curry slate was because they aren’t happy with how things were.”
Six opposition candidates have already been elected to the 14-member International Executive Board.
Fain said he would lead the UAW away from a “company union” philosophy.
“We have to have leadership that is willing to do the right thing for our members and take action when it calls for it,” he said. “And unfortunately, we haven’t had leadership with the desire to do that because of the cozy relationship (with management) that has been going on for years.”