UAW president candidates offer competing visions as runoff starts – Detroit News

Candidates for president of the United Auto Workers laid out competing visions and cast each other as out of touch with rank-and-file members as voting kicks off in a runoff election for the union’s top leadership position.
UAW President Ray Curry and challenger Shawn Fain faced off in a debate Thursday during which they fielded questions — some submitted by members — about the auto industry’s transition to electric vehicles and the implications for legacy manufacturing jobs, the experience and approaches they would bring to the bargaining table with the Detroit Three ahead of key contract negotiations later this year, and how they would uplift the voices of academic workers who now make up a sizable portion of the UAW’s membership, among other issues.
The hour-long forum was moderated by Steven Greenhouse, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation and former New York Times labor reporter, and took place as ballots started to go out to members Thursday.
Both Curry, the union’s president since 2021, and Fain, an international UAW administrative representative in the Stellantis Department, touted their experience serving in various roles in the Detroit-based union while casting the other as not being attuned to the needs of the membership.
Fain argued that Curry and other members of the Reuther Administrative Caucus are out of touch with the issues facing rank-and-file members, such as tiered wage and benefit systems and high inflation. He contended that Curry has not been proactive enough in his approach to shoring up jobs amid the electrification of the auto industry. And he cast UAW leadership as being too cozy with management and vowed to take a more aggressive posture.
“Automakers have announced joint venture after joint venture, but we’ve seen zero plan and zero action to lock down this work under our master agreements,” Fain said. “We need a change in perspective. We need leadership with a will to fight, and with real plans to take on our employers strategically. It’s time we put corporate America on notice that our members deserve their fair share and we’re coming for it.”
Curry, meanwhile, highlighted his “wealth of experience” in various leadership roles, including as a regional director and secretary-treasurer before taking over the UAW’s top job. He touted himself as the candidate who has been doing the work of leading the union and fighting for members and argued that Fain’s position in the Stellantis Department keeps him removed from the action.
“While I was doing the work out on the picket lines, while I was doing the work fighting with employers, while I was doing the work standing with employers, my opponent was sitting behind a desk in a training center,” he said.
Curry cast himself as a leader of reform initiatives within a union whose reputation was damaged by a years-long corruption scandal. He also promised to fight to represent workers building electric vehicles and batteries, noting that the UAW already represents workers building Detroit Three EVs like the Cadillac Lyriq and Ford F-150 Lightning.
The UAW under Curry recently won a key organizing victory when workers at a joint-venture battery plant in Ohio voted for union representation. Still, Fain criticized Curry’s approach to organizing battery-manufacturing JVs, arguing that the UAW could be more proactive.
“What we are seeing from Curry is too little, too late,” he said. “Organizing a joint venture after the fact like they did at Ultium leaves us open to worse wages and worse benefits.”
Curry, meanwhile, pointed out that he’s now at the bargaining table negotiating a contract for Ultium LLC workers: “We’re not being ignored. Our voice is being heard.”
Runoff elections are taking place for the offices of international president, international vice president and Region 9 director after candidates in those races failed to clear the vote threshold needed to win.
Vote tabulation in the UAW’s first-ever direct election of International Executive Board members — which had just 11% voter turnout — wrapped up last month. The election shook up the Reuther Administrative Caucus’s decades-long grip on the union’s top leadership, with opposition candidates winning the races for secretary-treasurer, two vice president positions and two regional director roles. An independent candidate beat an incumbent in another regional director race.
Curry’s candidate slate, backed by the Administrative Caucus, held on to five regional director positions.
The mailing of ballots for the runoff election began Thursday. Members who haven’t received a ballot by Jan.19 and believe they are eligible to vote can request one at or 855-433-8683. Ballots must be returned by Feb. 28, with vote tabulation slated to begin March 1. Additional information about the election is available at and at
Twitter: @JGrzelewski


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