By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Challenger Shawn Fain is narrowly leading United Auto Workers (UAW) President Ray Curry in a runoff election for leadership of the powerful union, as Curry’s campaign said it had filed a protest over issues including undelivered ballots.
Late Friday, court-appointed monitor Neil Barofsky said in the presidential race Fain has received 69,386 votes and Curry has 68,881 votes – a difference of 505 votes – but with 600 unresolved challenged ballots.
A group backing Fain said that lead means his victory is “all but assured.” Barofsky said he was not declaring a winner yet in the election and plans to reconvene the vote counting at a future date.
The protest filed by Curry’s campaign raised numerous issues including the fact that tens of thousands of ballots were returned as undeliverable and urged the monitor to “immediately delay the announcement of a final result and immediately investigate these questions in a transparent process.”
The election comes at a critical time for the union.
Labor contracts with Detroit’s Big Three automakers expire in September. The UAW is set to hold a special convention on collective bargaining starting March 27 in Detroit.
The UAW is working to organize new battery plants and members worry that shifting to electric vehicles will cost jobs.
Curry has been president of the UAW since June 2021, and a UAW member since 1992. Fain has been a UAW member for more than two decades, serving as an officer at a local in Indiana representing workers at a Stellantis NV casting plant.
The UAW won a victory in December, when workers at an Ohio General Motors-LG Energy battery cell factory voted to join the union.
UAW officers previously were elected through a delegate system. Members approved direct elections in a 2021 referendum required as part of a 2020 Justice Department settlement to resolve a corruption probe which resulted in the incarceration of two former UAW presidents.
The UAW has about 375,000 U.S. members, down from 1.5 million in 1979.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonEditing by Matthew Lewis and Lincoln Feast)