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Judge approves historic 'one member one vote' change to UAW leadership elections

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Kate Wells
/
Michigan Radio

A federal judge has approved the results of a historic referendum vote by United Auto Workers members.

By a nearly two-thirds majority, rank and file union members voted to switch to direct election of top officials — a method called "one member, one vote."

That will replace a decades-old system where union members chose delegates, and those delegates then chose the officers at a national convention.

The referendum was one result of a criminal investigation into widespread corruption at the UAW, which led to federal oversight of the union.

Twelve union officers — including two former UAW presidents — have received prison sentences for crimes including bribery and fraud.

Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross Business School, said the new election method is a significant shift.

"It's a change that the UAW old guard fought like crazy, but they lost. And it's a new era for worker democracy in their own union," Gordon said.

"Everybody in the union knew there was some corruption," he said. "It was obvious. What was a surprise to many union members was how deep it went."

The order directs that the one member, one vote system will need to be in effect in time for the union's next election cycle in the summer of 2022.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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