Tuesday, December 15, 2020

UAW Reaches Corruption Settlement With Justice Department

By  on December 14, 2020 

The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a proposed civil settlement with the United Auto Workers (UAW) in the gigantic corruption case that absorbed two former presidents and a slew of union officers over the last few years. With many involved already serving the first part of their prison sentence, the UAW has reportedly agreed to hold a referendum among the rank-and-file to change the way it elects the top brass. The proposal predictably includes some court oversight designed to catch any new instances of fraud coming from inside the union but doesn’t appear to address the corporate aspect.

As a positive, it’s not assumed that the union will see a complete government takeover. Like laundry, it’s already better to separate your alleged corruption to create legal buffer zones.

Obviously, we’re fairly skeptical that the settlement will do much in the long run. Union bribery scandals are only slightly more common than union busting scandals perpetrated by the corporations they do business with and the wait is never as long as you think. But it could delay the next round of impropriety if implemented with the same seriousness as the investigation appeared to be.

The proposal suggests that an independent monitor could ensure reforms are adhered to “so as to reduce the possibility of a recurrence of corruption.”

An official announcement is planned Monday afternoon by U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider and UAW President Rory Gamble, according to a press release from Schneider’s office. While no additional details have been provided, the Associated Press suggested Schneider, whose office has been investigating union corruption since 2015, was seeking a temporary government takeover of the UAW. At a minimum, he’s been pushing for direct voting by members to elect union leadership (rather than delegates) and has even expressed concerns over its current leadership.

Schneider has said he’d like to see the matter settled by January in the past and the issue may become even more important as the possibility of his being replaced (as a Trump appointee) under a Biden presidency.

Eleven union officials (including two former presidents) and one deceased official’s spouse have pleaded guilty since 2017. Some of the earliest convictions also roped in Fiat Chrysler employees taking funds from an FCA-UAW training center in Detroit. While not all of the instances were connected, they did kick down the door to expand the investigation and showcase how liberal the union had been with its finances.

From AP:

Former UAW President Dennis Williams in September pleaded guilty in the government’s investigation, and his successor as president, Gary Jones, pleaded guilty in June.

Williams, 67, was president from 2014 until he retired in 2018. He was accused of conspiring with others to cover up the source of cash for expensive meals, cigars and large expenses.

The union’s Region 5 leadership, which was based in Missouri and headed by Jones, would hold weeklong retreats in Palm Springs and invite Williams along. He said he stayed beyond “what my union business required.”

Williams told a judge that he wondered if money was being misused but that he was assured by Jones that “everything was above board.”

Expect more once the terms of the settlement have been ironed out.

[Image: UAW]

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