Don't Call UAW President Shawn Fain A 'Union Boss'

Don't Call UAW President Shawn Fain A 'Union Boss'

Image: Paul Sancya (AP)

It is no more fair to call Fain anyone’s boss than it is to call President Joseph Biden your boss. In March of this year the former was elected president of the United Auto Workers union, for the first time in the union’s history by direct majority-rules election. Many in the media have taken to using the phrase “UAW Boss” as shorthand to refer to Fain — despite the fact that no union president is a boss — including Fortune, The Hill, Politico, Business Insider, InsideEVs, and even NPR.

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Fain achieved a narrow majority of votes, and has received steady support from his electorate since. Within days of his election, Fain put automakers on notice and set a hard-line stance during contract negotiations.

Prior to the September 15 strike, UAW members agreed with Fain’s fervent stance and voted to strike with overwhelming support. This was not a unilateral decision by the president; it was an action taken by popular vote among union members, with 97 percent in favor of strike. For the first time in the union’s history, it has acted to strike against all three major U.S. automakers.

The word boss is derived from the Dutch term ‘baas,’ or master. One who employs or oversees workers. That doesn’t describe an elected official, in fact quite the opposite. Elected officials, whether Fain or Biden or anyone in between, are overseen by those who elected them. In the case of the American President, it is we, the people, who are the boss. Fain answers to UAW members.

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