The feds did not take over the UAW after a slow-motion corruption investigation that resulted in prison sentences and over a dozen arrests, but they did make the union accept an independent monitor, and also ask its member to decide how they want to elect UAW officers. So far, on that second point, members are speaking loud and clear.
The current system for electing UAW presidents and other offers is delegate-based, meaning that UAW members don’t directly elect the person who leads them, and instead that decision is left up to union functionaries, creating an environment, federal prosecutors have argued, that is conducive to corruption.
A referendum to change the system to a “one member, one vote” tally or to keep the current system has been underway in recent weeks with voting closing Monday and 143,072 votes cast. As of Tuesday afternoon, with 72.4 percent of the votes counted, 62.8 percent of votes favor direct election of union officers, according to the UAW’s independent monitor. Someone like Nate Silver would probably tell you that a lead that big is all but insurmountable, and that it is all but certain that the UAW’s next president will be directly elected by its membership.
This will not come as good news to Ray Curry, the UAW’s current president, who has said that he supports the delegate-based system, probably because, if it stayed, he would have an easier path to a fresh term when the UAW convenes in June. Instead, it will likely look like what it should have been all along — a direct election.
Rory Gamble, who was UAW president before Curry, also said that he supported the delegate-based election system. I’m sure that Gary Jones, who was president before Gamble, also liked the delegate-based system, along with Dennis Williams, who was president before Jones. It might have served Jones and Williams better though, had a different system been in place. Yes, they might never have been president, but they also might never have been sentenced to prison.