Michigan Democratic Party — February 19, 2013

UAW wins a round over MDP Chair Mark Brewer, 1349 new UAW delegates will receive convention credentials


Careful here, folks. We need to hold this party together.

Updated at 2:15 ET to add some additional information about membership fees and the MDP rules.

In what is rapidly becoming a power struggle between supporters of current Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) Chair Mark Brewer and the powerful UAW labor union, the UAW won a round during an MDP Appeals Committee meeting last night. At issue was the credentialing of 1,349 UAW members as delegates with voting privileges at next Saturday’s statewide convention. The applications for these members, some of whom were new and some who had allowed their MDP membership to lapse, came in on Friday, January 25th, the last day to become a member eligible to vote in the election of the new MDP Chair. However, the checks for their membership fee did not arrive until the following Monday, three days after the deadline.

Because of this, Chair Brewer rejected the applications and returned them to the applicants. This would have prevented the new members from being credentialed for the Chair election, members who would presumably support the UAW-endorsed candidacy of challenger Lon Johnson.

The Appeals Committee is made up of appointments chosen by the Chair. Of the eleven members, only seven voted in the 5-2 decision, three of whom have direct connections to the UAW. The Committee apparently agreed with the UAW’s argument that (a) according to MDP rules, membership fees are not actually required to be a member and (b), late payment of fees has been allowed in the past without loss of voting privileges. It is true that you are not required to pay a membership fee. Article 4, Section A of the MDP Rules (pdf) explicitly states:


A. Membership

A member of the Michigan Democratic Party shall be any legal resident of Michigan age 16 or older who has completed and filed a current Michigan Democratic Party membership form at State Party headquarters, provided that a financial contribution shall not be required to be and to remain a member. County, District, Club, Precinct Committee and Caucus chairs who solicit memberships shall immediately forward completed membership forms to the Michigan Democratic Party.

It does seem a bit odd to say on one hand that, if you DO pay a membership fee, your membership application isn’t complete until you give them money but on the other hand, if you don’t pay a membership fee, your application is complete when you turn it in.

A source close to the Brewer campaign tells me that the applications were not submitted as “free memberships” and, since they did send in the money late, it was clear they were not intended to be. Furthermore, it is not within the Chair’s power to simply change the rules made by the State Central Committee, a committee largely controlled by the UAW, in fact. Finally, there are a number of labor unions that support Chair Brewer and they managed to get their members to update their memberships according to the rules and it’s unfair for another group to receive special treatment. Again, “the rules” here do appear to be open to some interpretation.

There is talk that the Appeals Committee decision may be appealed again during Saturday’s convention prior to the vote for Chair. This would be a very unfortunate move, in my opinion. As one political veteran told me, “Imagine a scene where almost 1,400 party members are refused credentials and then denied their right to vote on the floor.” That would be extremely counter-productive in terms of coming out of Saturday’s convention as a unified state party ready to do battle with Republicans in 2014.

At the end of the day, this rather blatant power move by the UAW may not be as successful as they hope. It’s one thing to sign up well over 1,000 new MDP members. However, they still have to get them to the Cobo Center Saturday to vote, a task that is not nearly so easy. I’m also told that some of these applications are from people who don’t even live in the state. It is far from guaranteed that this victory will ensure Johnson’s victory.

It is my hope that once this spirited campaign is over, Michigan Democrats will rapidly put it behind them and focus on our real political opponents.

To paraphrase Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is Republican.”

  • la58

    Plus when word gets out at the Convention, what the UAW did. It may change some votes from Lon to Mark.

  • haha the 30 day rule was pushed by the uaw to protect the uaw, over the objections of many grassroots activists.

  • Mark E. Miller

    Chris, you should xpost this to kos. Are you still posting there? I was going to write about this there, but you have more details.

    • Not interested in airing our “dirty laundry”, actually. It’s useful for Michigan Dems who will vote next weekend but more like gossip for everyone else. That’s my take.

  • kirke123


  • There is a misconception that Lon Johnson’s campaign and the effort to reject the challenge to the 1349 new members of the MDP whose applications were timely filed are a UAW controlled conspiracy. Yes, the UAW is one of the groups seeking change in the party. But I can assure you that the majority of the MDP Executive Committee members voting this evening were not UAW members, officers or employees.

    A lawyer in private practice, I sit on the MDP Executive Committee because I co-chair the Justice Caucus. I am not a UAW member. Other who sit on the Executive Committee are not UAW. For example, Debbie Dingell, who use to lobby for GM; Fay Baydoun from ACCESS; Derek Dobies; Jill Alper; Virgie Rollins from Detroit. The list goes on….

    Some folks have wanted change in MDP leadership for some years. That the UAW’s position has evolved so that it now agrees that it is time for change is to its credit. It demonstrates that the UAW leadership is opened-minded and willing to make a frank re-assessment of its loyality to Mark Brewer and the merits of another term under his leadership. And willing to make a change.

    So, let’s get past this issue frame, so easy for a media seeking drama to sensationalize, that this is Brewer v UAW. It is a widespread coalition of MDP progressive activists who are tired of: losing 4 straight Secretary of State races; losing 3 straight Attorney’s General races; having a State House majority for only 4 of the previous 16 years; and, having a Democratic majority on the Michigan Supreme Court for only 4 MONTHS of the previous 16 years. This, even as Michigan has gone BLUE 6 straight presidential races and 6 straight U.S. Senatorial contests.

    This is about winning. We need to change to win.
    – Paul Stevenson, Administrative Co-Chair, Justice Caucus

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