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Two high-ranking UAW officials shot after union election
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Two high-ranking UAW officials shot after union election

Two high-ranking United Auto Workers Local 551 officials were shot outside the union hall in Hegewisch shortly after winning re-election to the executive board on Friday night.

Three men were having an argument in the parking lot of the union hall at 13550 S. Torrence Ave. when one pulled a handgun and shot the other two in the legs, Chicago Police Department spokeswoman Bari Lemmon said.

UAW Local 551, which represents more than 4,200 workers at the Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant on the Calumet River, had just had an election and announced the results.

The man shot a 40-year-old man in the left leg and a 44-year-old man in the right leg, Lemmon said. They drove themselves to Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Hammond, where they were in stable condition.

Lemmon said the suspect is not yet in custody, but police know who they're looking for.

Aaron "Hammer" Straker and Jeff "UAW" Bacon, who both were re-elected to the bargaining unit Friday, identified themselves on Facebook as the victims in the shooting. 

"Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers!" Bacon wrote late Friday night.

"Thanks to god for looking out for me. Apparently, I have more work to do on earth right now. Thanks again to everybody! I am a little emotional now, we can talk more tomorrow."

Bacon, Straker, and Tommy Kottalis were the top three vote-getters out of a field of 12 candidates running to serve on the union's bargaining unit, which negotiates with Ford. Bacon got 16.36 percent of the vote, while Straker took home 10.6 percent of the vote.

"For those that don't know or want an update last night shortly after our local election results were posted, Jeff Bacon and myself both became victims to gunshot wounds," Straker wrote on Facebook.

"Mine went through my thigh, just missing the bone, but went all the way through taking a fair amount of muscle tissue with it. That being said, I was asked why don't I give the union stuff up. Go back to just running breakdowns, get paid more hours than what I make now and reduce my stress. My reply was, absolutely not. This is not about money, ego or power. This position allows me to help people every day."

Straker wrote the bullet could have struck himself somewhere else, and the shooting could have ended more tragically.

"I look at this as a sign of being blessed and a sign I am doing what the good lord wants me to do. Simply, help people," he wrote.

"This incident will not deter me from what I do. In fact, it strengthens my motivation to keep on keepin' on and helping the people."

UAW Local 551 members also voted to re-elect Chris Pena as president, Mindy Capps as recording secretary and Terri Houldieson as trustee. Run-off elections will be held for the other two trustee seats, sergeant at arms, guide and bargaining chairman, because the leading candidates did not secure enough votes under union rules to win outright.

Alan "Coby" Millender, who ran on a ticket and appeared on billboards with Straker and Bacon, had a huge lead in the chairman race, securing 45 percent of the vote in a five-person race. The next-highest vote-getter won 30 percent of the vote.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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