Shawn Fain has been elected as the next UAW president, after winning a runoff against incumbent Ray Curry by less than 500 votes. Fain ran as a change agent for a union that has been rocked by scandal, and his victory marks a historic election that broke the Reuther Administrative Caucus’ decades-long stranglehold on power. Fain was carried to victory by a disgruntled membership eager for change after years of illegal abuse of power by past leaders in a wide-ranging corruption scandal that tarnished the union’s reputation and cost it millions of dollars.
Fain’s team declared victory earlier on Saturday, and Curry confirmed that Fain would be sworn in on Sunday as the union’s next leader. Fain stated that the UAW had been controlled for too long by leadership with a top-down, company union philosophy who have been unwilling to confront management, which has resulted in nothing but concessions, corruption and plant closures. He added that their membership has long wanted to see a more aggressive approach with employers and that the future of the working class is at stake.
About 141,000 members turned in ballots in the runoff, 33 percent more than in the first round of voting, to decide the race after none of the five original presidential candidates received more than 50 percent. Fain was carried to victory by a disgruntled membership eager for change after years of illegal abuses of power by past leaders in a wide-ranging corruption scandal that tarnished the union’s reputation and cost it millions of dollars.
Candidates running on Fain’s reform slate won seven of the possible 14 International Executive Board seats, while an independent candidate won an eighth seat, giving anti-establishment members a majority voting bloc on all of the board’s key decisions. They’ll also lead upcoming contract negotiations with the Detroit 3 automakers and have promised to end what they perceive as a cozy relationship between management and past union leaders.
Fain will become the UAW’s fifth leader in five years. While he ran as a reformer, he has decades of experience in multiple leadership roles within the UAW, including as an international rep for 10 years. He was part of negotiating teams with the Detroit 3 in 2009 and 2011.
Curry, who was hand-picked by the retiring Rory Gamble in 2021, implemented a number of financial ethics reforms in his prior position as secretary-treasurer and attempted to distance the union from its troubled past, but ultimately failed to shake the stigma of being part of the same leadership caucus that produced former presidents – and convicted criminals – like Dennis Williams and Gary Jones.
In a statement, Curry expressed his deep gratitude to all UAW leaders and active and retired members for their many years of support and solidarity, adding that it had been the honor of his life to serve their great union. He also stated that he was committed to ensuring that this transition was smooth and without disruptions, wishing Fain and the entire UAW International Executive Board, staff, and clerical support as well as the UAW’s membership great success for the future.
In conclusion, Shawn Fain’s election as the UAW president marks a significant change in the union’s leadership and direction. The election of Fain and his team of reformers suggests that the membership is ready for a more aggressive approach towards employers, an anti-establishment decision-making process, and a return to the fighting working-class UAW of the past. It remains to be seen how Fain and his team will navigate upcoming contract negotiations with the Detroit 3 automakers, but their promises to end what they perceive as a cozy relationship between management and past union leaders indicate that a new era of transparency and accountability is on the horizon.
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