UAW election results signal ‘discontent’ among members as reformers notch big wins
By Eric D. Lawrence and Jamie L. LaReau
UAW members don't yet know if they will have a new president or whether incumbent Ray Curry will hold his seat following the union’s first direct election of top leaders, but one thing is certain: Change is on the horizon. Marick Masters, a business professor and labor expert at Wayne State University, said the vote, with rank-and-file members mostly selecting opposition candidates where they had the choice, revealed a great deal of dissatisfaction with the current leadership. Masters said, noting that some of the reforms in budgeting and personnel that the union is required to implement as a result of the fallout from the corruption scandal are “works in progress.” “They have an opportunity if they are firm and aggressive and thoughtful about it to make sweeping changes,” Masters said of the new voices. The corruption scandal, which exposed a culture where some top leaders helped themselves to a “fat cat” lifestyle, amplified the dissatisfaction among many members, but Masters said the discontent had its roots in other causes, such as unhappiness with the union’s stance in bargaining and a perceived willingness to cooperate too much with management. Looking ahead, the union will need to prioritize where it puts its organizing resources, Masters said. If the union wants to show its ability to make progress on some of the issues members care about, then it will need to demonstrate that it can unionize workers at electric vehicle battery plants and at auto plants not controlled by the Detroit Three, he said, noting that it won’t be easy. “These companies are not going to roll over and allow this to happen without a fight, so they’re going to have to be more resourceful overall in how they approach organizing these new battery facilities and these foreign-based plants in the United States,” Masters said.
December 4, 2022