The United Auto Workers’ new acting president says he is open to requests from the union’s membership to put UAW leaders on trial for misconduct.
Rory Gamble, the UAW acting president, said during an interview with thedetroitbureau.com he is committed to doing what needs to be done restore the union’s reputation and re-build members’ confidence in the institution, including listening carefully to petitions by the UAW’s local chapters.
The UAW’s constitution provides avenues to put union leaders on trial for misconduct and resolutions are now circulating on social media, demanding that Gary Jones, the union’s elected president, who took an indefinite leave of absence, stand trial for misconduct.
“Those are provisions provided for in our constitution. I am very respectful of their right to do that,” he added. “We will handle properly any request that comes up through the system,” said Gamble, a veteran member of the UAW’s executive board who became head of the UAW’s Ford Department after being elected to fill a UAW vice presidency at the union’s convention in 2018.
“I would like to see them addressed in accordance to the process. I am the defender of that process. If we will act on our members wishes,” said Gamble.
Gamble said Jones elected to take the leave to face the legal challenges.
Jones’ suburban Detroit home was searched at the end of August by FBI agents, who found more than $30,000 in cash in his garage. Jones is facing the possibility that he could be charged of embezzling union funds, but federal prosecutors have not filed criminal complaint against him.
Gamble added he stepped into the role of “acting” president only after being given the complete assurances from his colleagues on the union’s executive board that he would have a free hand to do what he considered necessary to restore the integrity of the union’s internal workings.
“There is not too much we can do to protect this union,” Gamble said. “We intend to look at every process in our union to make sure it’s running clean and efficient. If we need to beef the Public Review Board, we’ll do that,” said Gamble, referring to outside group created by the union constitution of review the actions of union any union officer
“We’re going to make efforts to get out in front of this,” said Gamble, who acknowledged that even though it has fully cooperated with the federal investigation, the UAW has to be prepared to do more. “Our intention is to do what we have to do to save this organization,” he said.
So far, 10 UAW officers and staff members have been charged with federal crimes. Of the 10, seven have already pleaded guilty to federal crimes, including one former UAW vice president, Norwood Jewell, who is scheduled to report to prison in January. A second former UAW vice president, Joe Ashton, was charged this week with wire fraud and money laundering.
A third UAW vice president, the late General Holiefield, was accused by federal prosecutors of accepting thousands of dollars of illicit payment from funneled through the UAW-FCA joint training funds. Holiefield died of cancer before he could be charged but his wife wound up pleading guilty to tax changes.
Three FCA executives, including Alphons Iacobelli, also have pled guilty to charges linked to illicit payments to Holiefield and three other UAW staff members.
Gamble, who has held extensive discussions with the UAW’s executive staff, said there are other potential cases “hanging out there” but none of them involve current members of the UAW’s international executive board.
Gamble also defended the joint programs, which have come under intense scrutiny during the federal probe. “There are going to be stricter controls in how they do purchasing that’s in the hands of (GM) now,” said Gamble, who said GM programs will move into a smaller building now that the lavish UAW-GM Center For Human Resources building front the Detroit River is being sold.
“At Ford, we’ve managed to save the building,” said Gamble referring to the old Veteran’s Memorial building next to the convention center, but there will be more controls as well.
The changes to the joint programs at FCA where the scandal originated have yet to be negotiated, Gamble said. “We have to work through that process with FCA,” Gamble said.
Earlier in the week, Gamble sent out a message to union members in which he acknowledged the union had to rebuild member confidence in the union’s leadership.
“I know recent events concerning members of our leadership have disappointed and angered many of you. I am angry as well, but I am not here to pre-judge anyone. I am here to take this union forward. However, I want you to know that I will not excuse or tolerate any inappropriate actions, period. That is my promise to you. From this day on, the UAW must not only adhere to the highest standards of conduct, put in place by former leaders like Walter Reuther. We need to exceed them. And that is my first priority,” Gamble said.