Supporters hold up signs during a speech at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 5, 2012, the second day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
Mladin Antonov | AFP | Getty Images
DETROIT — Members of the United Auto Workers ousted their president in the union’s first direct election, ushering in a new era for the prominent labor group ahead of negotiations later this year with Detroit automakers.
The union’s new leader will be Shawn Fain, a member of the UAW Members United reform group and local leader for a Stellantide parts factory in Indiana. He came out on top in a runoff election by hundreds of votes against incumbent Ray Curry, who was named president by union leaders in 2021.
Fain, in a statement Saturday, thanked UAW members who voted in the election. He also hailed the results as a historic change of direction for the struggling union, which he said will take a “more aggressive approach” with its employers.
“This election was not just a race between two candidates, it was a referendum on the leadership of the UAW. For too long, the UAW has been controlled by a leadership with a top-down corporate union philosophy that does not didn’t want to confront management, and as a result, we saw nothing but concessions, corruption and plant closures,” Fain said.
Curry, who previously protested the narrow election results, said in a statement that Fain will be sworn in on Sunday and is “committed to ensuring that this transition is smooth and undisturbed.”
“I want to express my deepest gratitude to all UAW staff, administrative support, leadership, and most importantly, serving and retired members of our union for the many years of support and solidarity. It has been the honor of my life to serve our great union,” Curry said.
More than 141,500 ballots were cast in the run-off election which also included two other board positions, a 33% increase from last year’s direct election in which no presidential candidates won 50% or more of the vote.
The election was overseen by a federal observer, who confirmed the results on Saturday evening. The results had been delayed for several weeks due to a second round of elections as well as the tight final count.
UAW presidential candidate Shawn Fain is vying with incumbent Ray Curry for the union’s top job.
Jim West for UAW Members United
Fain’s election adds to the biggest UAW leadership shake-up in decades, as a majority of the union’s international executive board will be made up of new directors who are not part of the ‘Administration Caucus’. who has controlled the union for a long time. over 70 years old.
Fain and others on his leadership roster ran on the promise of “No corruption. No concessions. No tiers.” The last being a reference to a tiered compensation system put in place by automakers in recent negotiations that members have called for scrapping.
The reshuffle follows a years-long federal investigation that uncovered systemic corruption involving bribery, embezzlement and other crimes among the UAW’s top brass.
Thirteen UAW officials have been convicted in the investigation, including two former presidents. As part of a settlement with the union in late 2020, a federal comptroller was appointed to oversee the union, and the organization held a direct election where every member has one vote, removing a weighted delegate process.
For investors, the UAW’s negotiations with Detroit automakers are typically a short-term headwind every four years that drives higher costs. But this year’s negotiations are expected to be among the most contentious and important in recent memory.
Fain said the union would seek benefits for members, advocating for the return of a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, along with raises and job security.
The UAW’s change comes against the backdrop of a broader organized labor movement across the country, a pro-union president and an industry transitioning to all-electric vehicles.