Michigan autoworkers gear up for Nov. 4 elections

The United Auto Workers is mobilizing a huge turnout of its members and friends for the Nov. 4 elections in Michigan and Ohio. Union leaders say they hope to reverse the trend whereby members of their union have tended to stay home during midterm elections.

They are actually getting some help in their push for greater participation in the elections from the state’s Republican governor himself who has angered union members with his enactment of a right to work (for less) law in the state. The law allows workers to refrain from paying union dues at unionized plants but requires the union to represent the “free riders” anyway.

The election in a few weeks will be the first since 2012 when the Republican governor, Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled legislature pushed through the right to work for less legislation The union expects that anger over the anti-union legislation will help drive large numbers of people to the polls.

The UAW is mounting a huge telephone operation and passing out thousands of leaflets. Phone calls are going out to every union member in the state. Friends, supporters and contacts identified by the union members are receiving calls as well

The union sponsored a telephone town hall last month in neighboring Ohio with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to urge union workers there to also turn out at the polls.

In addition, the UAW is relying heavily this election cycle on social media like Facebook and Twitter. The union has launched a website, uawendorsements.org, to help people keep track of candidates it is endorsing.

“We’re doing a lot of education to our members – a huge amount – probably more so than we have for a while. We’re getting out there really having that dialogue – trying to get them to understand how the ballot box and the bread box are connected,” UAW President Dennis Williams said in a recent Detroit News interview.

Rejecting the predictions of the pollsters, Williams thinks Snyder can be beaten: “I think Snyder’s beatable. It’s whether people are going to get out the vote.”

The percentage of workers in unions in Michigan is about 16.3 percent of the workforce or about 633,000 union members. Polls show union members favoring the Democrat, Schauer over Snyder by a 2 to 1 margin.

The UAW leadership sees the coming election as critical to the future of not just Michigan but of the entire nation.

“Republicans attack the very thing that lifted people from poverty to the middle class, which is unions,” said Williams. “The Republican Party won’t even entertain a jobs bill. I think that the American people are ready to make these tough choices.”

Photo:  John Rummel/PW





John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.