Reform-minded UAW members are pushing for a special convention to overhaul how the union’s top leaders are selected in response to the corruption scandal that led to the downfall of past President Gary Jones and others. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
A UAW group says it’s closing in on the support it needs from union locals to force a special convention that could lead to direct election of union leaders in response to anger over a long-standing corruption probe.
The group, Unite All Workers for Democracy, this week said 18 locals representing more than 40,000 workers have passed resolutions in favor of a special convention.
A key change being sought is a shift to direct election — “one member, one vote” rather than selection by delegates — of the union’s top leaders. The movement is fueled by anger at revelations from the federal corruption probe that has uncovered self-dealing and embezzlement by key union and auto company figures.
The group said it needs locals with a combined total membership of about 79,000 to pass resolutions in favor. The rules under the UAW constitution also require locals to be from at least five different states, which the release said the group has accomplished.
Justin Mayhugh, a founding member of the group and an activist in UAW Local 31 at General Motors’ Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, said the movement toward a special convention represents “a true display of solidarity” among locals.
More: Vance Pearson, who led UAW Region 5, expected to plead guilty in corruption probe
More: Is UAW headed for federal takeover? Feds say it’s ‘on the table’
“The membership understands how vital it is that they come together to take on the corruption at the highest levels of our union. Calling for a special convention to implement referendum voting of our International officers would be a historic step in the right direction. We are extremely hopeful that even more locals will pass Article 8 resolutions in the very near future,” Mayhugh said in a news release, encouraging interested members to reach out to the group through its website, www.uawd.org.
Article 8 is the section of the UAW constitution where rules for establishing a special convention are described.
The group and its reform effort is a response to the federal corruption probe that so far has led to the downfall of past UAW President Gary Jones and former Region 5 Director Vance Pearson and charges against 13 and convictions of 11 former union leaders, members and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles officials. Jones has not been charged, but he has been implicated as an unnamed union official as part of a group accused of embezzling more than $1.5 million in union funds. Pearson is expected to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to embezzle union funds and to use a facility of interstate commerce to aid a racketeering enterprise.
The scandal has angered many members and undercut the UAW’s historic image as a clean union. A Free Press story in November on the reform effort noted that the organizers were battling to convince members not to stop paying dues but to instead reform the union and work to avoid a government takeover.
The UAW leadership has highlighted a series of financial and ethical reforms aimed at rebuilding trust, and President Rory Gamble has pledged to leave his successors a clean union when he retires.
The UAW, which has more than 400,000 members, issued a statement noting its own reforms following a request for comment on the group’s efforts:
“Ultimately, the membership body makes these changes under the prescribed process for initiating, reviewing and voting on proposed changes. In the meantime, under the leadership of President Rory Gamble, working tirelessly with the board, the UAW continues to aggressively implement a series of critical reforms necessary to strengthen the union’s financial controls, oversight, and its overall accounting system.”
Contact Eric D. Lawrence: email@example.com or 313-223-4272. Follow him on Twitter: @_ericdlawrence.
Read or Share this story: https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/2020/01/24/uaw-reform-gary-jones/4553974002/