DETROIT — UAW members have voted to give themselves a direct role in choosing the union’s leaders, according to a preliminary tally released late Wednesday.
The vote, if certified, would cast aside a longstanding delegate system that came to be viewed as an enabler for corruption involving two ex-presidents and other former top union officials.
With more than 72 percent of votes counted, 62.8 percent were in favor of adopting the “one member, one vote” election system, according to the office of court-appointed monitor Neil Barofsky.
“The total number of votes in support of the direct voting system crossed a threshold that indicates that it will receive more votes than the delegate system and will prevail, pending final certification of the vote,” the monitor’s office said. “The tabulation process will continue until every vote is counted and the unofficial results are announced.”
Workers voted in favor of changing to direct election by a more than 2-to-1 margin at the large Ford Motor Co. local in Dearborn, Mich., and by about 4-to-1 at Ford’s assembly plants in Louisville, Ky., and Stellantis plants in Kokomo, Ind., and Toledo, Ohio.
UAW members had until Monday to return their ballots, and 143,072 were received by the deadline. The vote is a condition of the UAW’s settlement with the federal government over a corruption probe that has sent 15 people, including two former union presidents, to jail for stealing money from members.
Proponents of the direct election system, including former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, have argued it could help prevent the type of corruption uncovered by federal prosecutors. Under the current system, the union’s top officers are often nominated by what’s known as the Reuther Administrative Caucus, and they usually sail to victory in the quadrennial election with little to no opposition from challengers.
If approved, the change would mean that UAW President Ray Curry could face a tougher path to reelection than his predecessors when the union gathers next June in Detroit. Rory Gamble, who retired as president a year before his term was to expire, had selected Curry as his successor in part because he could become a multiple-term president.
Both Gamble and Curry had expressed support for the current delegate-based voting system.