More on the UAW Convention

Wendy Thompson

Posted August 15, 2022

One change in organizing for the opposition at the Convention this time was the use of a WhatsApp chat list during the proceedings. It was used so much it was hard to follow the chat and the proceedings. But it helped the delegates elected by Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD) to feel less isolated from each other on the convention floor. The floor is loaded with appointed reps who try to intimidate delegates.

At past conventions, everything was decided in advance by the Administration Caucus (AC). One big resolution was written by AC appointees and brought to the floor for a yes or no vote. No amendments could be made unless the entire resolution was voted down. A booklet of resolutions submitted by locals was given out to delegates, but they were never brought to the floor and discussed. In my experience, the only exception was the Bargaining Convention in 1985, when I was able to get delegates to vote to discuss a local resolution against whipsawing (turning local against local). But the AC violated its own rules and refused to bring the resolution to the floor, after sending it back to the Resolutions Committee.

At this convention, delegates voted three times to put a local resolution or constitutional amendment on the floor. AC constitutional amendments were usually handed out right before a vote. This time, due to UAWD pressure, their proposed amendments were handed out in advance.

Suddenly, the convention was a new ballgame. The delegates decided what issues they wanted to raise. By the third day, the AC reps went round and cracked the whip. No one was to put a local resolution on the floor or support anyone who did. Whole delegations changed their behavior and started to sit quietly.

What did these delegates think about this assertion of discipline? Hopefully, a number didn’t like it, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they will speak out. Many are afraid the AC leaders will retaliate and refuse to represent their locals properly.

Since the early 1990s, when the New Directions caucus challenged the UAW leadership, the AC had circulated to delegates daily glossy reports saying how delegates should vote on issues. They didn’t do that this time. They may have been fearful of a backlash, if they were too heavy-handed. When the floodgates of democracy opened, they were horrified and moved to lay down the law.

Another thing I noticed was a difference in the practice of kissing the regional director’s ass every time a delegate got up to speak. Many delegates still did it, but there wasn’t a chorus of support, as there had been before.

The AC vote against ranked-choice voting was directly counter to their line on One Member, One Vote, which they claimed would cost too much money. Now money be damned, let’s have an unnecessary second vote. There were two sentiments: 1) some people felt they would be forced to vote for a second choice, and it was important to explain that was not true, 2) AC leaders clearly saw members even looking at second or third choices as a threat to their power.

The rank-and-file delegates got a taste of democracy at the convention. As word of this spreads to members, they may demand more.