Daraka Larimore-Hall has two jobs.  He is currently the President of UAW Local 2865 and is seeking a full three-year term in next week’s elections.  He is also the Chair of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party.  I think this is a problem.

As UAW president, Larimore-Hall participates in the disbursement of thousands of dollars of members’ voluntary political action contributions to California candidates.  Undoubtedly, most if not all of these candidates are Democrats.  I am not accusing Larimore-Hall of any improprieties, but there is a clear conflict of interest here.  I think UAW members should be uncomfortable with an elected Democratic leader being in a position to help make contributions directly from our union coffers to Democratic candidates that he helps to choose–especially when the success of those candidates will undoubtedly help his own political career in the Democratic Party.

What makes this even more problematic is the lack of transparency in this process in our union.  There is absolutely no mechanism in place to keep members informed of the political contributions that the UAW makes using our voluntary political action contributions (VCAP).  Members–including those who contribute to VCAP–do not receive reports on VCAP spending, nor do members of our Local’s ostensible governing body, the Joint Council.

There is a broader question here, of course.  While the interests of the ASEs in our union indeed often overlap with the interests of Democratic politicians, there are certainly situations in which this is not the case.  In the current California budget debacle, Democratic politicians are well on their way to endorsing cuts to unions and to public education.  As a union, we will need to make tough decisions about how to fight back and we will soon need to consider the question of whether, as a union, we can support certain Democratic politicians.  If we are going to have that discussion, we need a leader whose political commitments aren’t entirely determined by his other job.  As long as Daraka Larimore-Hall holds both his current jobs, there is no way for UAW members to have confidence that his political decisions are in our best interests.

There is an alternative, of course.  Instead of a Democratic UAW, we can choose a democratic UAW–a union run by rank-and-file members who do not serve the interests of major political parties.  Daraka should keep his job with the Santa Barbara Democratic Party.  And we should elect a new president.

Brian Malone
Graduate Student in Literature
Santa Cruz Unit Chair 2009-11

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