UAW International Elections Referendum

By Jason Starr

As this issue of First Local News goes to press, the Nov. 29 deadline for receiving ballots in the UAW International Elections Referendum has passed and the Court Appointed, Independent Monitor of the UAW has begun to report results. While we are still waiting for the final total count, a threshold has been crossed that indicates the direct voting system will prevail.

With this new change in how the UAW International Executive Board is elected will come a need to develop new election rules and methods to put into place for the election of new officials.

What does all that mean for us as members of UAW Local 249?

It means that it is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. With nearly 78% of the votes cast from this local favoring the direct voting system, it is safe to say that the membership is in favor of change. With that change comes responsibility. A direct voting system is not a cure-all solution for what ails us in the UAW. It provides an avenue to make changes, but it will require the commitment and dedication of all members, not just an enlightened select few.

It is time for the membership to take ownership of our union; and a direct voting system is going to require a level of participation beyond what we have grown accustomed to. Members will need to be engaged and aware of the issues the union is facing, conduct research on the candidates running for positions, and most importantly: members will need to show up at the polls.

If we are to ensure the future of this union and to prevent further division from marring our legacy, then we as a membership need to focus on driving the changes we want to see. Direct elections in the hands of an engaged, energized membership may transform our union into the kind of organization that can reverse two-tier contracts, limit the number of temporary workers in our plants, restore post-retirement health care for UAW members hired after 2008 and wage successful organizing campaigns in the non-union auto plants in the Right-to-Work south.

However, the direct voting system is not a solution and cannot make that happen on its own, but it is certainly an opportunity. One that we need only to accept to begin the process of reshaping the UAW into the driving force it once was and pave a new path into the future for labor unions.

The last two years have brought layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic,  parts shortages, and changes to our everyday lives and how we operate as a society. It has also brought about a resurgence in worker’s rights and work stoppages. We have seen strikes at Frito-Lay, IAM Local 778, Kellogg’s and John Deere. This is unprecedented in today’s world and shows a growing discontent among the working class as big money corporations rake in billions and leave their scraps to their workforces.

If we want to be successful in our future endeavors, then we need to begin today by accepting responsibility for what is to come and making the change we wish to see a reality. That starts by strengthening our organization from within, and that starts with the membership.

It is time to get involved and take ownership of the direction we take. You can start today by joining a standing committee within the local, attending the monthly membership meetings and staying informed and connected through union bulletins and social media.

We need to unite under the umbrella of the working class and show these greedy corporations and corrupt politicians that we are united, we are strong and we will prevail. One of the best ways to show that is taking the opportunity before us and use it as a stepping stone to reshape our own future from the inside out.