Stakes are high in the United Auto Workers, with two polar-opposite visions of unionism up for leadership. On Monday ballots were sent to UAW members for the union’s first direct election of top officers. The rank-and-file vote comes about because members voted last fall to switch to that system, instead of having a far smaller number of convention delegates elect top leaders, as the UAW has done until now. The opportunity to let members decide was ordered by the U.S. Justice Department’s monitor, installed in 2021 to oversee remedies to the union’s blatant corruption. Over the past five years, more than a dozen UAW officials have pleaded guilty and gone to jail for embezzlement and other crimes, including two presidents. President Dennis Williams, for example, got the union to build him a $1.1 million lakeside “cabin” to ease his retirement.
Auto Workers (UAW) members made history last November, winning direct elections of national officers (“one member, one vote”) in a membership referendum. Now delegates are headed to a Constitutional Convention where candidates will be nominated for the top slots. The whole process will put to the test whether reformers can break the iron grip of the Administration Caucus, the one party that has ruled the union for 70 years. Winning direct elections was the first hurdle. The next, formidable hurdles are: Will a credible slate of challengers form? Will a majority of members vote for change? And can new leaders and constitutional changes turn things around for the UAW? The election will cover 14 positions: president, secretary-treasurer, three vice presidents (traditionally assigned to each of the Big Three automakers: General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis, formerly Chrysler), plus nine regional directors.
The members of the United Auto Workers have voted overwhelmingly to move to a direct voting system for choosing their union leadership—“one member, one vote.” With all votes counted as of December 2, direct elections had the support of 63.6 percent of voters. It's a historic win for reformers in one of the nation’s most important unions, where members have pushed for this change for decades. The referendum is the product of a consent decree between the UAW and the U.S. Department of Justice, after a years-long series of prosecutions of top union officials on corruption charges ranging from embezzling union funds for personal use to accepting bribes from an employer, FCA (formerly Chrysler, now Stellantis), in exchange for accepting contract terms more favorable for the company.
A month into the nation’s largest work stoppage, striking John Deere workers are holding out for a better deal. For the second time in a month, 10,000 Auto Workers at John Deere stunned both the company and the union leadership November 2 by rejecting a tentative agreement. Workers at the farm equipment manufacturer remain on strike. Company and union negotiators are set to meet today for the first time since the deal was voted down. The vote was closer than on the first tentative agreement, which was rejected by 90 percent of members. This time, 55 percent voted no. It came as a shock to many analysts, given the concessions workers had been able to wring out of Deere during their first two weeks on strike.
Striking John Deere employees rejected a second contract offer on Tuesday. After decades of austerity contracts with cuts to pensions, healthcare, and wages, workers at the farm equipment manufacturer — members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) — are standing up and demanding more, just as the t-shirts they’ve been wearing on the picket lines put it: “Deemed essential in 2020. Prove it in 2021.” This strike is proving it. UAW members across Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas voted down the tentative agreement, 55 percent to 45 percent. This is a much closer vote margin than when 90 percent of union members voted down the previous contract offer in early October, which set the stage for the strike that began on October 14.
For decades, the United Auto Workers (UAW) has been controlled by a tight-knit group of insiders known for its opacity and corrupt tendencies, leading many rank-and-file members to criticize the leadership for its arrogance, lack of accountability, and failure to address the needs of a workforce that is increasingly precarious and alienated. All that might start to change in the coming weeks as UAW members vote on a historic referendum to change the way it elects its central leadership: members can decide whether to replace the current system of indirect elections through a small, exclusive group of delegates, with direct elections, known as “one member, one vote.” That might seem like a pretty basic change, but pro-reform members say that this is the first step toward breaking the monopoly on power held by the current leadership, and could help this storied union become more progressive and address endemic corruption.
Approximately 10,100 workers at agricultural equipment giant Deere and Company began to strike at midnight Central Time early Thursday morning. The workers are located at plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas, as well as two parts centers in Georgia and Colorado. The walkout is the first at the company in 35 years and is the largest strike by manufacturing workers in the US since the 40-day strike at General Motors in 2019. “Our time is now!” a Deere worker in Illinois told the WSWS. A second worker added, “We are glad to be going on strike, it shows we’re not settling. That’s what everybody wanted the first time,” i.e., when the last contract expired on October 1. “People knew it was time based on the horrible TA [tentative agreement] Deere offered, so they’re fed up and ready to do what’s necessary,” a third Deere worker stated.
United Auto Workers members will soon vote in an unprecedented referendum to decide whether the union’s 400,000 working members and nearly 600,000 retirees will directly elect their top officers. Ballots hit the mail October 19 and are due back November 29.
Ten thousand production and warehouse workers for the farm equipment manufacturer John Deere will take a strike authorization vote September 12 across nine Auto Workers (UAW) locals in Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas. Strike authorizations at bargaining time are not unusual for John Deere workers, and they haven’t struck in 35 years, but there are reasons to watch this round of negotiations closely. The last contract in 2015 passed very narrowly, by fewer than 200 votes out of 10,000 eligible voters, who traded rising health care costs for a small pay bump. The largest Deere local, Waterloo Local 838, rejected that contract 2 to 1; Ottumwa Local 74 also turned it down. Hundreds of laid-off workers were allowed to vote on it, though—and with a hefty $3,500 ratification bonus, many of them, unsure they’d have a job to return to either way, took the deal.
In December the leadership of the United Auto Workers reached a settlement with the Justice Department that opens the door to election of top union officers by referendum vote of the membership. That might well end more than 70 years of one-party control and help democratize a union once known for animated internal debate and competitive leadership contests. The settlement provides for six years of oversight by a court-appointed monitor with extensive powers, including the authority to veto new UAW staff hires and block candidates for office who do not meet an anti-corruption standard. More important, the agreement calls for a vote of all 400,000 members to decide whether they want direct election of...
Detroit — A group of dissidents in the United Auto Workers is the second in 30 years to attempt change in the democratic union they say has really been ruled by one party: the Reuther Administrative Caucus. That caucus has nominated the winning candidates for the union's executive board members for most of the past 70 years — with the exception of one notable exception, a challenger from the New Directions movement that rose up in the mid-1980s.
The Chicago teachers and staff, numbering 35,000, are on strike for the second time in seven years. And for a second time, the teachers' action has helped spark a social movement. This strike questions to the long-held understanding that unions have no right to make demands beyond work conditions, pay and benefits. The present Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) fight, like the previous one, with its almost daily mass demonstrations, two being over 25,000, takes on the feel of an anti-neoliberal battle. The union is voicing the progressive social demands of a broad sector of the population, who have seen the decay of many social services and living standards for families and for children. The teachers want: smaller class sizes, more social workers, a nurse and a librarian in every school, and more bilingual and special education teachers and staff.