Integrity in Our Union
Without question, the past few years of our union’s history have been dark. We have witnessed two of our highest leaders being convicted of crimes as well as others who violated their oath to membership and abused their positions for personal benefit. They betrayed all of us.
- UAW leadership fully cooperated with the investigations and took action as facts emerged.
- In December of 2020, UAW and the Department of Justice entered a consent decree to appoint an independent monitor who has the authority – among other things – to continue to investigate matters. Members can now report misconduct directly to the monitor.
- Former presidents were both convicted and stripped of their membership. Our union continues to vigorously pursue claims to recoup what they have taken.
- In addition to criminal and civil claims, our union is also reversing many of the decisions made by former leaders during their tenure.
There is more to be done as we rebuild trust and restore our union’s integrity. To get there, we must all play a role: our union is strongest when members participate in keeping our union strong. Transparency, strengthened policies and accountability to membership is what restores integrity. Changing how leadership is elected does not advance that goal, but it does open our union to risks.
Democracy in Our Union
Membership is the highest authority in our union. The proof of that lies in our Constitution which spells out the numerous democratic safeguards that often go beyond what the law requires:
- Members elect their local union leadership through secret ballot election
- Members ratify their agreements through secret ballot election
- Members elect delegates to represent them to national conventions through secret ballot election
Democracy is about more than voting: it’s about participation. Our union is strongest when members are engaged in their local union and practicing solidarity. The UAW Constitution lays out the process for electing national leaders: members in good standing vote for delegates at their local level. Those elected delegates then vote at the Constitutional convention.
Delegates vote on many matters – not just elections – and will continue to do so, regardless of the outcome of this referendum. This referendum asks the questions whether the current system of electing national leaders should remain or be replaced with direct vote. We support democracy and the voice of membership. A delegate structure is not undemocratic. Changing the election rules doesn’t stop bad actors from running or winning. In fact, it will be easier for anyone well-financed to launch a national campaign, with no transparency or accountability about where their campaign donations are coming from. It’s a radical step that risks the future of our union.
What’s at Stake
We are at a crossroads today as we are all receiving ballots on an all-important question which may change how we elect our national leaders (President, Secretary-Treasurer, three Vice-Presidents and eight Regional Directors). This is a serious decision that requires all of us to consider all the ramifications of the vote and such a radical change.
- Small locals will be unheard: in an election, it’s about getting a majority of the votes. Running a national election is costly. A candidate will naturally spend his or her time campaigning at larger locals. Under a delegate system, all members - regardless of the size of their worksites - have a proportional voice in the process.
- Fewer members will determine the outcome: direct election of leaders does not mean all members participate in the election. In fact, the Teamsters (IBT) have had direct election of leaders since 1996 and have seen a significant drop off in member voting: from 34% in 1996 to13% today. In contrast, under the current UAW delegate system, most locals send delegates to the Constitutional convention.
- Campaigns cost money: A national campaign involving almost a million votes costs money. Lots of money. This isn’t a matter of raising a few thousand dollars on GoFundMe. To seriously run, candidates will need campaign supporters and that’s what should concern us all. Who will be contributing to these elections?
- Investigations and the Monitor are working: The Department of Justice entered into a consent decree with the UAW to create a monitor whose role is to solicit complaints and conduct investigations. The events of the past few years have reminded all of us that our highest duty is to one another. If the concern is rooting out corruption, then the process is working.
- Who will be our leaders? With the likely influence of outside money and low voter participation, it is possible that the elections become popularity contests: the loudest firebrand with the deepest pocket will win. We deserve more than that: we deserve leaders with experience who have been tested. Our great UAW – like all institutions – is governed by people. We expect them to honor their office and duty. When they don’t, we must do everything to demand accountability. The Administration Caucus supports creating greater safeguards that protect the integrity of our union. Changing how we elect leaders doesn’t address that. This is where the fight should be: strengthen our union, improve our delegate voting system and keep the integrity of our great union in the hands of members, not outside forces.
The same way leaders elected by delegates: through transparency and integrity. Our union has worked with the Department of Justice and the independent monitor to strengthen and expand internal systems and checks. Electing leaders directly changes the process, but it does not enhance the system of accountability.3. If delegates are not good enough to vote for leaders, why are they good enough to vote on
Constitutional amendments and resolutions?
We believe that a delegate system is democratic. Members in good standing vote for delegates to represent them to the Constitutional convention. And yes, regardless of the outcome of this referendum, delegates will continue to vote on important matters that arise at a Constitutional convention.4. What is the main argument for direct voting?
Proponents of “one member, one vote” argue that the referendum is needed because a candidate running outside of the Administration Caucus cannot successfully run for office under the current system. They believe that they can win elections through a direct voting system. We have to ask: why? To run a national campaign of that scope would require significant financial support which would be happily offered by those who want to see our great union weakened.5. What other unions use a delegate system to elect their national leaders?
Most major unions use a delegate system to elect their national leaders. These unions include: Service Employees International Union (SEIU),National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT),American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Laborers’ International Union of NorthAmerican (LiUNA), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Communication Workers of America (CWA) and International Union of Operating Engineers(IUOE) all elect their national leaders through a delegate system. These unions include over 11,358,000 members.6. Does the UAW Administration Caucus accept outside money?
No. We do not. All contributions are from UAW active and retired members.7. Where can I learn more about the referendum?
The independent monitor has a website that answers many questions, and we encourage all active and retired UAW members to visit the site https://www.uawmonitor.com/
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