First Directly Elected UAW President Vows 'War Against Our One and Only True Enemy: Multibillion Dollar Corporations'

Shawn Fain, running as part of a reform slate of candidates, swept the ballot to take control of a union that has been marred by corruption.
Shawn Fain
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The new president of the United Auto Workers Shawn Fain—who ran as part of a reform slate with the slogan “No Corruption. No Concessions. No Tiers.”—began his tenure by vowing the union is readying itself “for the war against our one and only true enemy: multibillion dollar corporations and employers that refuse to give our members their fair share.”

The UAW—officially known as the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America—is a wide-ranging union representing more than 400,000 active members and 580,000 retired members with more than 600 local unions and 1,750 contracts. (Full disclosure: I am a member of ACT-UAW Local 7902 in my role as an adjunct professor at New York University.)

Fain is the first UAW president to be directly elected by the union’s membership. Prior to this election, the union’s senior leadership was chosen by delegates at a convention, a closed process that encouraged cronyism and corruption that often didn’t represent the will of the rank-and-file. Since 2017, 16 former officials have been convicted by the Department of Justice with corruption-related crimes. General Motors accused Fiat-Chrysler, now named Stellantis, of racketeering in negotiating its 2011 and 2015 contracts with the UAW (an appeals court threw out the case but GM is trying to take it to the Supreme Court). Two consecutive UAW presidents, who were in office from 2014 to 2019, were sentenced to jail time. A federal monitor overseeing the union in the wake of the corruption scandal ordered the UAW directly elect its leadership.

Fain, a member of a reform group called UAW Workers United, ran as an underdog against Ray Curry, who had been UAW president since 2021, but was perceived as being too close to the old guard wrapped up in scandal. Not only did Fain win, but the UAW Members United slate swept the table and now have majority control of the UAW International Executive Board, according to a statement put out by UAW Members United.

“Our entire union family now needs to come together to take on the Big Three and the many other challenges facing the UAW,” the statement said. “A new day is dawning for our union.”