In a close runoff election, Shawn Fain, an electrician and UAW member for over two decades, defeated the incumbent Ray Curry and has become the new president of the United Auto Workers. The defeat of the “Administration Caucus” that has run one of the country’s major unions for some 70 years marks a big upheaval and a new militancy of rank-and-file workers against an ossified leadership that has made major concessions to management over the past few decades. Fain’s caucus, “UAW Members United” also captured a majority of the union’s International Executive Board.
The election saw a record number of 141,500 votes cast by direct mail ballot, a 33 percent increase from the direct election that prompted the runoff. It was the first time that the leadership was chosen by direct mail election of the membership rather than in a national convention, the result of a membership referendum last year, in the wake of a corruption scandal involving the incumbent leadership.
After his victory, Fain issued a statement declaring that the“election was not just a race between two candidates, it was a referendum on the direction of the UAW. For too long, the UAW has been controlled by leadership with a top-down, company union philosophy who have been unwilling to confront management, and as a result we’ve seen nothing but concessions, corruption, and plant closures.” Fain added that “while the election was close, it is clear that our membership has long wanted to see a more aggressive approach with our employers. We now have a historic opportunity to get back to setting the standard across all sectors.”
The new leadership will lose no time in confronting management in the bargajining process. The UAW current contract with the Big Three automakers expires in September and the union will be formulating its demands beginning almost immediately.