Jay Cronk, the longtime Machinists union official from Connecticut who challenged the IAM’s international president in a historic national election, has lost the vote but said he isn’t done fighting.
A tally of preliminary results released Friday by the IAM shows that Thomas Buffenbarger, IAM president since 1997, outpolled Cronk by 23,545 to 11,163 in voting at about 800 Machinist local lodges around the country during April, including several in Connecticut.
Turnout was light among about 570,000 active and retired union members who were eligible to vote. And the Machinists who did vote made history, as it was believed to be the first-ever national election for president in the union’s 125-year history.
It was a bitter fight filled with accusations on both sides. Cronk, 59, now a Metro North mechanic in New Haven, said it’s not over. He and his challenge slate for the top IAM positions, posted accusations on the IAM Reform website, saying Buffenbarger’s team threatened local union officials to campaign for the incumbents and illegally used union money to campaign.
Cronk’s slate also charged that there are “significant anomalies in the voting results.”
“We intend to ask the Department of Labor to investigate these serious violations, through every avenue available to us,” Cronk said in a written statement. “Unseating a corrupt and entrenched bureaucracy will require our continued strength and focus.”
Rick Sloan, a spokesman for the incumbent slate, declined to respond directly to the charges, but he said, “From day one, this was all about running up the bill and increasing the cost to the union and that’s what his plan is now and has been all along. …He lost big-time. He got less than 2 percent of the entire union.”
The U.S. Department of Labor oversaw the election, including the counting of ballots this week, under an agreement with the Machinists arising from the union’s alleged improper handling of a 2013 election.
Buffenbarger, who recently visited Connecticut for a Machinists union conference in Groton, said in a written release, “Our members have spoken and we thank them for their support. They overwhelmingly rejected an effort to move this union backwards and we now turn our full attention to moving the IAM forward.”
The unofficial tally shows that the 10 incumbent slate candidates for the 10 positions polled between 29,337 and 21,486 votes. The seven challenge slate candidates polled between 12,751 and 10,690 votes.
A strong Machinists union benefits the economy as a whole including in Connecticut, where the IAM represents several thousand workers, about 2,500 at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford and Middletown. So the opening of the process that generally shuns national elections is probably good as well.
Cronk, who was fired from his union headquarters job a few days after he announced his candidacy in November, returned to the Metro North job he left 22 years ago. Even if the loss in this election holds up, he’ll be remembered as the first Machinist union member to force a national election for president, by winning enough union locals in nominating contests.