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UAW workers vote to directly elect union leaders

A person carries a flag with the patch from the United Auto Workers (UAW) labor union during a May Day rally for media workers held by The NewsGuild of New York on International Workers

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (Reuters) – Members of the United Auto Workers union voted to change the union’s method of election from the current system of delegates to a direct election model, a court-appointed monitor said.

The referendum showed 63.7%, or 89,615 votes, in favor of the direct voting system, with 50,971, or 36.3%, in favor of maintaining the status quo, Monitor Neil Barofsky said.

The referendum to the 400,000-member union was required as part of a US Department of Justice settlement announced in December 2020 over corruption allegations that resulted in the conviction of two former UAW presidents, among others .

Barofsky will meet with the UAW and then draft amendments to the union constitution to incorporate the direct voting system. The next election for UAW president, secretary-treasurer, vice-presidents and regional directors will be the first under the new rules and will likely take place in 2022.

A total of 16 people have been convicted in a large-scale investigation into UAW corruption or illegal payments to UAW officials by Fiat Chrysler executives. Two former executives of Fiat Chrysler have been convicted.

Several UAW leaders, including the two former union presidents, have pleaded guilty to embezzling millions of dollars for personal gain, using the funds to buy alcohol, cigars, golf outings, related equipment and expensive hotel stays.

Barofsky said in a report last month that the UAW had not done “enough to respond to repeated warnings about the urgent need to transform its culture.”

The UAW represents approximately 150,000 workers at Detroit’s Big Three automakers. It also represents thousands of workers in other fields. At its peak in 1979, the union had approximately 1.5 million members.

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