On the Front Lines of Democracy

As UAW members get involved in the communities where they live, they have a deep impact not just on their workplaces and their families, but on our nation. For UAW Administrative Assistant to President Rory L. Gamble, Allen Wilson, that meant a front row seat in the national spotlight as he served on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.

The stakes? Who will be our nation’s next president.

Wilson is one of four members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans appointed by the Wayne County Commission, just like the other 82 county canvassing boards throughout Michigan. The board’s job includes certifying election results in Wayne County, which includes Detroit. Partisan controversy over certification is rare. With the November 3 results clearly showing President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris won, certification should have been uncontroversial. But with a lame duck president, as the New York Times described, using an “unparalleled push to overturn the results of the 2020 election” with an “audacious use of brute political force,” the election was anything but typical.

The board’s two Republican members, encouraged and praised by President Donald Trump along the way, maneuvered to block certification by falsely accusing Detroit’s primarily Black voters and the city’s voting system as being fraudulent and their system error ridden. They did not contest results in primarily white Wayne County cities where similar issues occurred. None of the small discrepancies anywhere in the county would have changed the outcome of the election. All were issues that occur in every election, without being questioned by the board, according to Wilson.


UAW Administrative Assistant to President Rory L. Gamble, Allen Wilson

Those lies from the GOP board members about Detroit, while giving other cities a pass, made Allen Wilson’s presence on the board crucial, not only as an overseer of fair election results for all but as defender of Detroit voters, many from working families and many who are union members. The lives, blood, sweat and tears sacrificed by Black Americans to gain voting rights were on the line.

“There has been a push from Trump and the GOP to disavow many votes cast. For the GOP to save face with Trump most have jumped on board with these false claims,” said Wilson. He emphasized that in 2016, 59% of precincts were out of balance, which meant about one to three votes in each of those precincts were reported in error. The results were approved without question. In the August 2020 primary, 72% of precincts were out of balance and results were approved. In the recent November election, 70% of precincts were out of balance.

Amazingly, GOP board members had a problem with those results even though they approved similar results in the past. They offered no evidence to back up their opposition to the certification, even while knowing that the votes in question wouldn’t change the results of the election.

“The stench of partisanship was in the room. I told the Republicans and the media that I was appalled to be sitting here with my GOP colleagues who are trumpeting Donald Trump’s rallying cry to overturn the election he lost,” added Wilson. “It shows a disdain for the voting electorate in Detroit. It shows disdain for the largest African American community in Wayne County. They tried to disenfranchise working families, union people.”

After heated outcry from Wayne County residents during the certification meeting, the two GOP board members agreed to certify the results of the Wayne County vote. After intense pressure from the GOP, however, they changed their minds again and refused to sign the certification.

The importance of speaking up against racism and against voter disenfranchisement couldn’t be clearer with Wilson’s role on the board. “You need people, including political candidates, in places to support working men and women. Democrats, not Republicans, are the ones who will do that. Voluntary V-CAP contributions from members put politicians in place to enact legislation that promotes the agenda of working families, and have created laws to give women and African Americans the right to vote. More important, V-CAP affects all of us in state legislatures, the halls of Congress and the White House,” said Wilson.

Labor friendly President-elect Joe Biden got $365 million in contributions in August alone, from political action committees and individuals, and that money helped promote him to victory.

“Without the ability to financially support labor friendly candidates what do we have? Trump and his cult members who never question him, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who blocks all legislation that helps workers? Senators Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz? They never question Donald Trump,” said Wilson. He pointed out that candidate Donald Trump infamously said during his 2016 campaign, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and wouldn’t lose any voters, OK? It’s, like, incredible.”

As the recent November election reminds us, voluntary V-CAP contributions and political engagement make a profound difference to every UAW member. As labor icon and former UAW President Walter Reuther famously said, “There's a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls.”