DETROIT — UAW members have voted to give themselves a direct role in choosing the union's leaders, the court-appointed monitor said Thursday.
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.
Of 140,586 votes, 89,615, or 63.7 percent, were in favor of adopting the “one member, one vote” system, while 50,971, or 36.3 percent, were in favor of retaining the status quo, the office of court-appointed monitor Neil Barofsky said.
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. 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.
The monitor will send a report on the vote report to the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards for approval. If OLMS endorses the referendum result, the report will then be filed with the court, which will make a final determination as to the validity of the vote.