The Rank-and-File Fight for Direct Democracy at UAW

A conversation with Justin Mayhugh, a worker at General Motors in Kansas City, about a referendum on whether UAW members can directly elect top union officers.

Maximillian Alvarez

Workers represented by UAW picket outside of John Deere Harvester Works facility on October 14, 2021 in East Moline, Illinois. Scott Olson/Getty Images

A lot of important history is being made right now, and something potentially game-changing is unfolding among the American workforce. At this very moment, 10,000 UAW members at John Deere are on strike in Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas; 35,000 healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente have authorized a strike; 1,400 workers at cereal giant Kellogg’s are on strike in Nebraska, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee; 1,100 coal miners in Alabama have been on strike since April; 800 nurses in Massachusetts have been on strike since March; and many other strikes and strike authorizations are also unfolding. On top of that, record numbers of US workers are voluntarily quitting their jobs, in what is being called the Great Resignation.” Something is happening here… At the same time, there are crucial struggles happening within the labor movement that we all need to be paying attention to. One of these struggles is taking place within the United Auto Workers itself, where members are currently voting on an unprecedented referendum that will decide whether or not the 400,000 working members and nearly 600,000 retirees can directly elect their top union officers. Ballots went out on October 19 and are due back at the end of November; if the referendum passes, it could be the beginning of a massive shakeup for the union, which many members say needs more democratic governance and more militant energy coming from the rank-and-file. Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD), a grassroots caucus of UAW members advocating for direct elections, has been leading the charge for this historic referendum. In this episode, we talk with Justin Mayhugh, who has worked at General Motors in Kansas City for over a decade and is an organizer with the UAWD caucus.

Additional links/​info below…

Permanent links below…

Featured Music (all songs sourced from the Free Music Archive: freemu​si​carchive​.org)

  • Jules Taylor, Working People Theme Song”
Help In These Times Celebrate & Have Your Gift Matched!

In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

In These Times is proud to stand alongside our fellow awardees in accepting the 2024 Izzy Award. To help us continue producing award-winning journalism a generous donor has pledged to match any donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000.

Will you help In These Times celebrate and have your gift matched today? Make a tax-deductible contribution to support independent media.

Maximillian Alvarez is editor-in-chief at the Real News Network and host of the podcast Working People, available at InThe​se​Times​.com. He is also the author of The Work of Living: Working People Talk About Their Lives and the Year the World Broke.

The War on Protest Cover
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.