In the wake of corruption scandals involving automakers and the UAW, union members have voted to replace the old system of having leaders appoint their replacements to a direct voting system, where members themselves will choose leaders. While some reported this as an “overwhelming” victory for the reformers, only around 143,000 actually voted with the mail-in ballots, out of around one million (400,000 active and 600,000 retired members).
Chrysler’s Indiana plant’s local 685 recorded 80% of their votes in favor of the change. 81% of those voting in Ford’s Local 862 in Kentucky favored direct elections.
UAW locals outside the auto industry, in particular locals at the University of California and Harvard (graduate student workers), voted in favor by larger margins.
Proponents of the change said that the change should increase accountability, as people can more easily be removed from leadership positions if they deliver a bad contract or are tainted by scandal. It may also make it less likely that leaders will give themselves larger pay raises than the rank and file are getting.
Still to be resolved are the exact mechanisms for putting the change into place, which must be worked out with the federal monitor and existing leadership. However, members appear to be confident that there will be a contested election.