Former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell is expected to U.S. District Court early next month to plead guilty on charges of violating federal labor law and could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Jewell, who abruptly quit his UAW post in December 2017, months before he was scheduled to leave office, is the second top union official implicated in the ongoing investigation. He accepted more than $40,000 in travel and gifts.
Federal prosecutors are investigating a scam in which the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executive responsible for relations with the UAW used money designated for training UAW workers for lavish parties and gifts.
General Holiefield, Jewell’s predecessor as head of the union’s Chrysler Department, also was implicated in the scandal but died before he could be indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit.
(Former UAW VP Jewell charged by feds in FCA-UAW scandal. Click Here for the story.)
Alphons Iacobelli, former FCA vice president of labor relations, as well as six other UAW and FCA officials have already plead guilty to federal criminal charges and are scheduled to begin serving prison sentences this coming summer. Monica Morgan, Holiefield’s widow, also plead guilty to tax charges.
Iacobelli acknowledged when he plead guilty last year that he approved the diversion of the training funds to influence the administration of and negotiation on FCA’s labor agreement with the UAW, which currently represents some 51,000 hourly workers at the automaker.
It’s not clear yet whether Jewell could implicate other union officials as part of his plea agreement with federal prosecutors. Jewell is scheduled to appear in front of U.S. District Judge Paul Borman in early April and the judge will very likely ask if Jewell is offering information of interest to federal prosecutors.
UAW officials have sought to contain the damage to its reputation by blaming scandal on personal greed. They also have insisted the scandal has not influenced the union’s labor agreement.
Jewell was the lead negotiator in 2015 when the UAW reached a tentative agreement with FCA, which was decisively voted down by union members because it failed to address several key issues of concern to union members – notably two-tier wages.
Gary Jones, UAW vice president, announced earlier this month a series of “reforms” that would address the issues raised in the federal probe of the union’s Chrysler Department. The changes included changes in oversight and accounting and explicit rules barring union staff members from accepting gifts from employers or employer donations to charities or foundations set up by senior UAW officers.
(Click Here for details about the Feds securing more indictments in FCA-UAW scandal.)
“I am deeply saddened and irritated that some members of this union and some leaders of the auto companies exploited their position to benefit themselves,” said Jones. “To my brothers and sisters sickened by the scandals, we make one thing clear: It is my responsibility from this day forward to strengthen your trust in your union. We do not take your trust for granted.”
Jones also promised more reforms and said he planned to keep union members abreast of the changes.
Meanwhile, FCA is calling in outside investigators after a hangman’s noose was found last month hanging inside the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant outside Detroit. The presence of a noose, which is widely regarded as a racially charged threat aimed at African-American employees and supervisors, triggered a lawsuit by GM employees from a transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio.
Despite inquiries at the Sterling Heights plant, the culprit could not be identified, the company said.
“If and when that person is identified, their relationship with the company will be terminated. FCA will continue to conduct focused training to underscore the value of diversity and inclusion. This type of behavior will simply not be tolerated,” Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said in a statement.
“We are appalled at these reports,” UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who is now in charge of the union’s FCA Department.
(Former FCA executive gets 5.5 years prison. Click Here for the story.)
“It is always unacceptable when a member suffers the indignity of slurs based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation,” she said. “The UAW has been and will always be a leader in fighting discrimination in the workplace.”