Former United Auto Workers Vice President Norwood Jewell was sentenced to 15 months in prison for violations of federal labor law, which centered on his failing to live up to his responsibilities to union members.
During the sentencing hearing. Federal Judge Paul Borman said that Jewell, the highest-ranking UAW officer to plead guilty to federal crimes, violated the trust UAW members had placed in him when he was elected to union office.
Under the terms of the sentence and his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Jewell will be allowed to “self-report” to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons the first week of January. In addition to the prison term, Borman could have imposed a $95,000 in fines on Jewell for violations of the Taft-Harley Act, which prohibits union officials from taking anything of value from employers but decided not after a review of Jewell’s personal finances showed he had a negative net worth.
David Gardey, chief of the public corruption unit for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Michigan, said in court that Jewell used money from training funds that the UAW had negotiated with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. to enjoy a lavish lifestyle that included first class air travel, expensive lodgings – including a two-month stay in a Palm Springs villa – and lavish meals.
The expenses were approved by FCA to curry favor with Jewell, who was responsible for negotiating and administering the UAW’s labor contract with the automaker.
Gardey also said Jewell entertained his colleagues from the UAW board as part of a calculated strategy to advance his own political career within the union. “He wanted to be UAW president. He used them and they used him,” Gardey said.
Jewell’s sentencing comes at an awkward time not only for the UAW but also Detroit’s three automakers, which are in the midst of negotiating new labor agreements with the union.
“This wasn’t a victimless crime,” said Gardey, who summoned Mike Booth, president of UAW Local 961 in Marysville, Michigan, who testified in open court that Jewell had failed to help his local during a long-running dispute about work at FCA’s axle plant in Marysville, which is owned by FCA but operated by the German supplier ZF.
Jewell, in his defense, said he was told by lawyers for the international that the deal between FCA, ZF and the UAW had been settled back years earlier and there was nothing he could do to change it.
But other union officials from the Jeep assembly and manufacturing complex and Toledo, Ohio that Jewell had failed to act in their complaints about outsourcing that violated FCA’s contract with the UAW.
Four FCA officials, including Alphons Iacobelli, Former FCA vice president of labor relations, have now plead guilty to charges of violating federal labor law for their part of the scandal. The company also faces potentially large fines for its role in the scandal.
Mike Manley, Jewell’s lawyer who argued for a lighter sentence of home confinement, said that Jewell, who had spent years working for and as a union official with General Motors had been unwittingly thrust into a “culture of corruption” when he was assigned to lead the union’s FCA department in 2014.
“He was naïve,” said Manley, and trusted his staff, who operated under the standards set forth by General Holiefield, his predecessor as UAW vice president, who accepted thousands of dollars in illicit payments from Iacobelli and FCA. Holiefield died in 2015 before he could be charged with federal crime.
Monica Morgan, Holifefield’s widow, however, pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion. Significantly, prosecutors noted as part of Jewell’s plea agreement, which cannot be appealed, he did not agree to provide testimony against any other union officials.