Former United Auto Workers Vice President Norwood Jewell reported to a federal correctional institution in Oxford, Wisconsin, to begin a 15-month for violations of the federal Labor Management Act.
Jewell, 62, was sentenced to a prison term last August after he pleaded guilty to the charges. He is the first top union officer to go to prison in the scandal that has overtaken the union in the past two years.
He admitted to violating federal law while serving as head of the union’s UAW Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Department, adding he had been misled by the staff he had inherited from General Holiefield, his predecessor as UAW vice president, who died before he could be charged with corruption.
Holiefield, according to federal court documents, participated in a scheme initiated by FCA Vice President for Labor Relations Alphons Iacobelli, who pleaded guilty in 2018 and is serving a sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Morgantown, West Virginia. Iacobelli is scheduled to be released in September 2023.
Jewell, who hailed from Flint, Michigan where he had been a local union leader before winning a seat on the UAW’s executive board, reported to federal authorities this week to begin his time in jail.
Other union officials, notably Joe Ashton, a former head of the UAW’s General Motors Department and former member of GM’s board of directors, are also facing prison time in the scandal, which upended the union’s top leadership.
Rory Gamble, the union’s new president, has vowed to root out corruption in the union and has taken several steps to tighten up financial controls.
The tight grip of the union’s so-called administrative caucus, which has controlled the administrative and political controls as well as personnel appointments inside the union for decades, has made reform problematic, according to critics of the current system inside the union, who are using social media to campaign for reform.
Nepotism has been one of the hallmarks of the administrative caucus’s controls in recent years and two sons of Jewell played an active role in the UAW’s negotiations with General Motors even after their father was indicted by federal authorities.
Gamble, while he has vowed to clean up the union the union, has yet to come up with a plan to address nepotism and other issues that critics maintain must be resolved, including major changes to the UAW constitution.
Reform groups want revisions to the constitution allowing for union members to vote directly for the UAW’s top officers and regional directors. Direct voting for union officers has been proposed in the past but has been choked off by the administrative caucus.
Ironically, one of the common arguments used against direct election of officers has been the charge that it would open the union up to outside influences from employers, who could throw their tacit support to favored candidates. Direct election also could be used to undermine the professionalism of the union staff, according to supporters of the current system.