2 big names look to lead UAW out of corrupt, dark past in Metro Detroit

This is the first UAW election in 87 years

There’s an intense battle over who will be the next leader of the United Auto Workers. Ballots are already out for a runoff election with two big names who both think they can lead the union out of its dark and corrupt past.

This is the first direct UAW election in 87 years. It came about after the UAW corruption scandals over the past few years and federal oversight over the union.

They decided membership should have the vote, not a convention where delegates decide the president.

Local 4 spoke with Shawn Fain of the UAW Members United Slate in December.

On Tuesday (Feb. 7), we heard from current UAW President Ray Curry.

“We’re a lot more transparent leadership and organization,” said Curry. “We’ve been able to put new reforms in place, and we’ve allowed and made sure the membership has received that information.”

Curry, the 57-year-old North Carolina native, took office as president in June 2021 after serving as national secretary-treasurer. He joined the UAW in 1992 on a truck assembly line and served in the army before that.

He knows to get re-elected, he needs to get past his membership’s skepticism after former UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams’s corruption convictions that sent them to federal prison.

“I have no attachments to the corruption,” Curry said. “I was not involved in the corruption or any of those things that took place. Also, I’ve been a huge advocate for the grassroots pieces of being an organizer originally before coming to the international staff. I have fought on behalf of membership.”

Curry’s opponent, Fain, an international staffer who worked for a former Stellantis vice president, is promising a hard line against the automakers as the union heads into national contract talks.

He said his experience in all areas of UAW representation is the stark difference between the two.

“And to all of a sudden think you can walk into the bargaining room and understand the issues from a number of different sectors when you’ve never dealt with them, that’s a learning experience in itself,” Curry said. “It’s almost like on-the-job training. We’re not ready in ‘23 for on-the-job training.”

As for what Curry is looking to do as the UAW enters national contract talks with the domestic three automakers this year, he says lump sum raises are a no-go.

He wants higher wages with the cost of living attached. He wants true pattern bargaining, particularly regarding the profit-sharing formula for bonus checks. Above all, he wants to ensure vehicles are committed to the existing auto plants.

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.