Autoworkers support Will Lehman’s formal protest against turnout suppression in UAW election

On Monday, Mack Trucks worker Will Lehman filed a formal protest note against the US union, the UAW, with the court-appointed supervisor. This has met with an enthusiastic response from automotive workers. Workers have expressed anger at the deeply undemocratic practices used by the union in suppressing turnout in the first direct election for top UAW offices.

Will Lehman with a worker at Ford’s Kentucky truck plant, September 2022 [Photo: WSWS]

Lehman — candidate for UAW chairman — made it clear that the election result, which would see longtime bureaucrat Shawn Fain and incumbent UAW chairman Ray Curry running in the runoff next month, was not viewed as a legitimate expression of autoworker will can be. The union apparatus had systematically suppressed turnout, resulting in only about 9 percent of the 1.1 million active and retired UAW members voting.

Union officials, determined to bar as many members as possible from voting, provided almost no information about the election, the candidates, or voting – despite the vast resources of an apparatus with a net worth of nearly $1 billion. As the protest note points out, the lack of any publicity for the union election stands in sharp contrast to the vast sums of money the UAW spent in November promoting various Democratic Party candidates in the congressional elections. (The full text of the protest note is here to read.)

When a temp worker at the Stellantis Warren truck assembly plant in the Detroit suburbs heard about Will’s protest note, she said, “I’m all for it. I’m happy and I stand behind him 100 percent. I hope we can retune.”

“Today the UAW distributed calendar booklets at the plant. If they can, then why haven’t they gone around and encouraged people to vote? Why did they have the TPT workers [befristete Teilzeitbeschäftigte] not told that they can choose? I just laughed: you hand out calendars but didn’t tell people they could vote and didn’t encourage them to vote. Tomorrow they will be giving out free t-shirts!”

In November, Lehman filed a lawsuit demanding a 30-day extension of the voting deadline and serious action by the UAW to inform workers about voting. The lawsuit was dismissed by the judge on flimsy technical grounds.

In the challenge to the election results sent to the supervisor, Lehman claims that “the ballots should be reissued and a new election held” or, alternatively, “the names of all candidates should be included in the ‘run-off.’ In any case, this time appropriate measures must be taken to prevent the union leadership from suppressing the election and to ensure that all members are aware of the election and are able to vote”.

“My husband got a ballot, but I didn’t. I requested one, but it was too late to vote,” said a worker who has worked at the Stellantis Jeep complex in Toledo, Ohio, for eight years. She joined Will’s challenge to the election, adding: “It’s a shame workers didn’t have the right to vote. Several temps on my team also didn’t receive a ballot, and it wasn’t easy to order one on the court-appointed overseer’s website.”

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