Another retired United Auto Workers official has been charged with accepting a $123,000 kickback from a vendor doing business with the multimillion-dollar training fund operated jointly by the United Auto Workers and General Motors.
Jeff Pietrzyk, 74, was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in an informational filing in the U.S District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan.
The charges against Pietrzyk come amid a major strike by the UAW against GM, which has crippled the company’s ability to produce cars and trucks in the U.S. and put 49,0000 hourly workers on the picket lines.
Before his retirement from the UAW staff, Pietrzyk also served as an aide to former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton when he was responsible for the union’s GM Department from 2010-2014.
Ashton was responsible for assembling one labor contract with General Motors in 2011. Under the terms of the federal bailout that brought GM out of bankruptcy demanded by Republicans, the UAW was not allowed to strike against GM that year and the union wound up signing what union members described as a concession-filled deal.
After his retirement, in 2014, Ashton also served on the GM board directors. He resigned when the start of the investigation of the GM-UAW training funds on VEBA, on whose behalf he occupied the board seat, liquidated its holdings in GM stock.
Pietrzyk is the second figure connected to the fund convicted of stealing from it. Michael Grimes, another aide to Ashton and a member of the board controlling the joint fund, pled guilty earlier to federal charges of embezzlement and conspiracy.
Ashton also is suspected in participating in the conspiracy, which at one point lead to the purchase of 58,000 watches that were supposed to be distributed to UAW members but never were.
No one from General Motors has been charged in the conspiracy even though any purchase order involving the joint fund is supposed to be countersigned by representatives the company and the union.
For its part the UAW said President Gary Jones, who is also suspected of embezzling union dues in what amounts to a separate and distinct part of the scandal, addressed the issue by demanding three bids for projects in which the union is involved.
“The charges against Jeff Pietrzyk are serious, and the conduct outlined in his charges is not just illegal, it is an affront to every member of the UAW,” the union said in a statement.
“The UAW has already made changes to its purchasing procedures that require three bids and pushed the Joint Program Centers to significantly tighten their accounting controls to prevent this type of criminal activity from happening again. This conduct — which was suspiciously announced in the middle of our current bargaining — must not and will not distract us from negotiating the strongest possible contract for our members.”