Indiana worker elected to UAW executive board hopes to ‘transform’ union, make leaders accountable
United Auto Workers union members elected a new “activist” slate of leaders in December 2022. That includes Dave Green, an Indiana worker who vows to use his new position to make the UAW more “accountable” to members.
“I recognize after being on the floor for so many years, that a lot of times people feel their voices aren't being heard, their concerns aren't being addressed,” Green said in an interview. “And I just want to make sure that I'm here to listen to them and help hopefully resolve some of the issues that they're having.”
Green now directs UAW region 2B, which covers both Ohio and Indiana, after getting about 58 percent of members' votes. With over 60,000 members, he said, this region has the most voting power on the UAW International Executive Board.
“So I'm hopeful that the executive board will listen to my concerns and issues that we're having here in Ohio and Indiana, and act accordingly,” Green said. The board’s first official meeting is in February.
Green notes that the UAW represents a wide range of workers in the region, from nursing to casinos and vehicle manufacturing. And he knows members of each industry have unique needs.
“Obviously, there are some things that cross all sectors,” he said. “Corporations, companies, entities continuously want to outsource work, they want our members to do more with less and that's one of the things that really disturbs me. I mean, dignity in the workplace, having a fair and safe work environment is huge.”
Generally, he said he wants to prioritize meeting members’ needs around pay, benefits, hours and workplace safety.
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According to Wards Auto, for the past decade the UAW has had a “cooperative style of bargaining that resulted in negligible gains” for members. The elections of Green and several other “challengers” are seen as a signal that employers might face a harder stance.
“Look, the companies are making record profits right now. Okay, the gap between CEO pay and worker pay has exploded,” he said, “So it's not like they don't have the money to treat their workers fair, it's just greedy. And if it takes strikes, if that's what it takes to get that justice in the workplace, then that's what we're gonna do.”
As regional director, he supervises almost 30 servicing representatives that work with various UAW locals to help them resolve issues. That will help him define which issues need to be addressed with help from the international union.
“We do education classes,” he said, referring to online courses region 2B has offered on topics like bargaining, labor history, budgeting and union leadership. “They were charging some money for them. I'm taking the fees off of those.”
Green also wants to ensure members get access to education and jobs, he said, as companies turn more to automation and outsourcing parts of their manufacturing, particularly in the electric vehicle sector.
Green said he also wants to ensure members get access to education and jobs as companies turn more to automation and outsourcing parts of their manufacturing, particularly in the electric vehicle sector.
Green moved to work at a General Motors plant in Bedford, Indiana in 2019 after the Lordstown, Ohio plant he worked at for 26 years shuttered shuttered. He was also president of the local UAW union there.
“When your plant closes, you either stick around and find another job and quit working for the company, or you follow the company and go to another location,” he said. “I was lucky to land in Bedford. I didn't really know much about the plant. I just kind of showed up on Monday for work, and went out looking for places to live after that.”
Many of his coworkers at the Lordstown plant also landed in Bedford, he said.
“I think this is the first time an independent candidate has won in this region like this,” he said. “And so it tells me that the members want to see something a little bit different, and they want to see a little change. And that's what I want to bring them.”
He had attempted to run for the position once before and failed. He partly credits his victory this time to the union switching from a delegate election to a one-member, one-vote system after the U.S. Department of Justice charged and convicted union leaders for fraud, embezzlement and violations of federal labor law.
“I wish (the charged UAW leaders) got to spend a little bit more time in jail because it really was detrimental, but was also transformational for our organization,” he said. “It gave us an opportunity, a spark, so to speak, to change directions, right? … The members now have the ability to hold all these leaders accountable, myself included, and I want them to do that.”
Though one barrier to that accountability could be low turnout. Only 11 percent of those who could vote in the UAW election turned in their ballots, according to Wards Auto.
“If you look at election numbers in other unions like the Teamsters, it's not like we're way off. A lot of people just don't participate,” Green said. “This is why one of my focuses is education. Our members need to understand what it is we're doing and why we're doing it. It's extremely important.”
Adam is our labor and employment reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.