It’s official. UAW members will now get to choose their union officers through direct elections, rather than via the union’s decades-old delegate system. The historic change will be in place by June, in time for the UAW’s next election cycle.
More than 63 percent, or 89,615 of current and retired UAW members voted in favor of the switch. This month, U.S. District Judge David Lawson in Detroit approved the results of the election. The vote itself was part of the settlement deal between the UAW and the federal government after a years-long investigation revealed a deep-seated culture of corruption at the union. The settlement also includes a six-year federal monitorship.
The idea of direct elections gained popularity at the height of the federal investigation into wrongdoing at the UAW. As several high-ranking union officials, including two former UAW presidents, were accused and found guilty of contributing to a culture of luxury and excess, union members began calling for a move to a “one member, one vote” system.
Of course, UAW leaders have been against switching up the status quo. Now-retired UAW President Rory Gamble came out against changing the voting system, saying “how we elect our leadership involves corruption in any way is just not true.” The union’s Administration Caucus even launched a new website ahead of the vote called ProtectTheWheel.org. It’s goal was to get members to “maintain the delegate voting system.” The union even tried to amend the rules of the election “to potentially allow limited and monitored use of union resources.”
But the voices of thousands of union members were heard in the end. Even with this major change to how the UAW elects its leaders, the union stil has a long way to go to regain members’ trust.