Close of voting nears in UAW presidential run-off election

U.S. President Joe Biden tours the General Motors 'Factory ZERO' electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit
U.S. President Joe Biden visits the production line for the Hummer EV as he tours the General Motors 'Factory ZERO' electric vehicle assembly plant, next to UAW President Ray Curry and General Motors CEO Mary Barra, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. November 17, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

WASHINGTON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Voting is closing in a run-off election pitting United Auto Workers (UAW) President Ray Curry against reform presidential candidate Shawn Fain.

Votes, which must be received by 4 p.m. EST on Tuesday at the U.S. Post Office in Dayton, Ohio, will be counted starting on Wednesday. About 1.1 million workers and retirees are eligible to vote.

The election comes at a critical time for the union.

Labor contracts with Detroit's Big Three automakers expire in September. The UAW is working to organize new battery plants and members worry that shifting to electric vehicles will cost jobs.

Fain, who narrowly trailed Curry in an election last year, said on Tuesday that UAW leaders "have been unwilling to confront the companies, and as a result we’ve seen nothing but concessions, corruption, and plant closures."

Curry defends his tenure and says the future of the union is at stake in the election and will fight to negotiate labor contracts for battery plants. "We've got to protect the work of the future," he said at a candidate debate.

The UAW won a key victory in December, when workers at a General Motors (GM.N)-LG Energy (373220.KS) battery cell factory in Ohio voted to join the union.

Last week the executive board unanimously approved increasing strike pay from $400 to $500 per week.

Curry on Tuesday criticized a decision by Chrysler parent Stellantis NV (STLAM.MI) to idle the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois.

Six reform candidates were elected to other officer positions. The run-off election will also determine two other races that could allow reformers to claim a majority of seats on the UAW executive board.

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.

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 casting plant.

The UAW has about 375,000 U.S. members, down from 1.5 million in 1979.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Matthew Lewis

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