Despite a massive effort by the United Auto Workers (UAW) bureaucracy to muzzle voters in the union’s presidential election, socialist candidate Will Lehman received the votes of 4,777 workers , according to an unofficial final tally posted Friday night by a court-appointed monitor.
Only 103,495 workers voted out of the union’s 1.1 million active and retired members. The 9 percent voter turnout shows that the election result is illegitimate and that any leadership that may emerge will not have any credibility with the membership at large.
Outgoing UAW President Ray Curry and longtime bureaucrat Shawn Fain each got less than 40 percent, less than 40,000 votes, though Curry got several hundred more than Fain. The bureaucracy’s two leading candidates failed to garner the support of 4 percent of the membership as a whole. According to the rules, the two candidates with the most votes advance to the second round if neither of them wins more than 50 percent of the vote. The second round cannot be legitimate if the two candidates together have not obtained nearly 10 percent of the votes in the first round.
It is evident that the vast majority of UAW members either did not know an election was taking place or did not even receive a ballot. The UAW bureaucracy and its leaders, who had opposed direct elections in a referendum last year, have made minimal efforts to educate workers about it, hoping to block as much of the process as possible. participation and limit the process to their favorite candidates.
“This election was a travesty,” Lehman told the WSWS.
“About nine out of ten UAW members who are eligible to vote did not vote. It’s not because they don’t care, it’s because they didn’t know there was an election. Although bureaucracy everywhere attempted to prevent voter participation, it is now clear that the UAW conspired to prevent nearly all West Coast university workers from voting, even though 48,000 members of the UAW are engaged in a courageous strike against the University of California system. There is no innocent explanation for this. This justifies my campaign’s decision to sue the UAW and the Comptroller two weeks ago to extend the deadline and inform members. The decision of the judge who rejected my request turned out to be totally illegitimate”.
Indeed, some UAW locals with thousands of members recorded a turnout of 1 percent or less, while many other locals recorded a turnout of less than 10 percent.
- According to the UAW comptroller, UAW Local 4123, which has more than 11,000 members in the California state university system, returned only 29 ballots, a turnout of only 0.26 percent. Lehman won 24 percent of the vote in this section.
- UAW Local 4121, which has about 9,000 members at the University of Washington, submitted just 72 ballots, a turnout of 0.07 percent. Lehman won 23 percent of the vote in this section.
- UAW Local 5810 sent out 6,000 ballots to postdoctoral students and academic researchers in the University of California system, where workers are currently on strike. The local reportedly returned only 328 ballots, a turnout of 2.9 per cent. Lehman won 13 percent of the votes cast in that section.
- UAW Local 2865, also on strike, received 30,138 ballots but cast only 921. Lehman won 15 percent of those votes. There is no explanation why only 36,000 ballots were sent to the 48,000 UC strikers.
The number of ballots counted by the comptroller has fallen by almost 30 percent, or about 40,000 votes, compared to last year’s national referendum, in which workers voted to set up elections direct. About 143,000 members voted in that referendum.
Despite efforts by the UAW bureaucracy to suppress the vote, Lehman won strong support from a wide range of workplaces, including auto factories, parts warehouses, heavy and military equipment manufacturers, and universities. Lehman, a second-tier worker at Mack Trucks, ran on an explicitly socialist and internationalist platform, calling for the abolition of the corrupt, pro-business UAW bureaucratic apparatus and the transfer of power to the grassroots workers.
- In Section 677 at the Mack Trucks plant in Lehman, Pennsylvania, he received 151 votes, or 18.6 percent of the total.
- Local 2069, Volvo Trucks’ New River Valley plant in Virginia: 67 votes, or 11.1 percent.
- Section 600, Ford Dearborn Truck: 111 votes, or 2.9 percent.
- Local 249, Ford Kansas City Assembly: 103 votes, or 5.7 percent
- Local 140, Stellantis Warren Truck: 85 votes, or 8.4 percent.
- Local 1268, Stellantis Belvidere Assembly in Illinois: 77 votes, or 6.9 percent
Lehman has also won strong support from relatively smaller factories where workers took up the fight last year. In Locals 180 and 807, striking CNH workers in Racine, Wis., and Burlington, Iowa, Lehman received 16 and 15 votes respectively, or about 11 percent of the votes cast in each. At auto parts maker Ventra in Evart, Mich. — where workers rejected a UAW-approved discount contract by 95 percent earlier this summer — Lehman won 11 votes, or 14 percent of the votes cast.
As the WSWS has previously reported, Lehman has won support from workers at military equipment manufacturers. At the General Dynamics plant in Lima, Ohio, which manufactures the M1A1 tank for the US military, Lehman received 8.2 percent of the vote. At the AK Steel plant in Butler, Pennsylvania, which manufactures military helicopters, Lehman got 12.4 percent of the vote, and at the GE Aviation plant in Cincinnati, Ohio, 8.8 percent.
Among UAW members at universities, Lehman also received considerable support. At New York’s New School, where he recently went on the picket lines of striking adjunct teachers, he won 63 votes, or 14.4 percent of the votes cast, in a local that also covers part-time faculty at New York University. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he got 23 votes (13.5 percent), as well as 23 votes at Harvard (7.6 percent).
It is obvious that the rank and file of many locals learned that an election was taking place not from union officials, but from emails and flyers distributed at factories by the Lehman campaign. Efforts by the UAW bureaucracy to keep workers in the dark have coincided with near-total censorship of the national press, as well as publications posing as “leftist” such as the magazine Jacobin.
In recent weeks, Lehman has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court asking that UAW voting deadlines be extended by 30 days and that real action be taken to inform all election workers. The complaint included dozens of statements from rank-and-file workers that say they had not received a ballot, despite repeatedly requesting one from the comptroller.
The UAW bureaucracy and the UAW Comptroller, as well as the Biden administration’s Department of Labor, all opposed the lawsuit, arguing that Lehman did not have ‘qualification’ to pursue the case. . The federal judge sided with the UAW and the comptroller and dismissed the suit, though he admitted that Lehman had raised serious concerns about the UAW’s conduct of the election.
The low turnout reflects both efforts by the apparatus to muzzle the vote, as well as the deep alienation of rank-and-file workers from the bureaucracy, which has imposed brutal attacks on wages and benefits on behalf of companies for the past 40 years.
A measure of workers’ immense hostility to the bureaucratic machinery of the UAW was expressed in the fact that the two candidates most heavily promoted as favorites by the media, Curry and Fain, both longtime members of the bureaucracy, received only about 39,000 votes each, or about 8 percent of the total eligible members to vote.
The vote of several thousand workers across the United States for Lehman, on the other hand, explodes all reactionary myths that the American working class is irredeemably hostile to socialism. In workplaces ranging from Detroit to rural Iowa and Virginia, to Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, workers voted for an avowed socialist and internationalist. They supported his call to end the dictatorship of the bureaucracy and put power in the hands of the workers in the factories.
Lehman’s campaign unfolded amid growing working-class rebellion, which she consciously voiced. Faced with soaring costs of living and unbearable working conditions, more and more workers around the world are becoming radicalized and looking for a way to fight back, whether it’s the ongoing strikes of dozens of thousands of university workers or the courageous struggle of more than 100,000 railroad workers against the combined forces of corporations and the capitalist state.
In a growing number of factories and workplaces, workers are beginning to form rank-and-file committees, including at GM’s Flint assembly plant, Ford’s Chicago assembly plant, the Stellantis Assembly Company in Detroit, in the railroad industry, and more recently at the University of California. This movement for the rights and interests of the working class must now be developed and widely extended.
(Article published in English on December 3, 2022)