United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble has steadfastly pledged to enact significant changes to how the union handles its business affairs after more than a dozen former officials have pleaded guilty to various forms of financial mismanagement.
Critics – including hundreds of current rank-and-file members – have essentially said talk is cheap and want to see real change, not just alterations of rules about how the union’s finances are handled. They may have just gotten their first tangible evidence that change is afoot as the union agreed to an offer to sell a home in northern Michigan that was built for former President Dennis Williams.
The $1.3 million lakefront home was built on property at the organization’s Black Lake Conference Center in Onaway, Michigan. The pending sale has the union working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to remove a lien filed against 27 acres of land and the cottage, according to the Detroit News.
“This is the right thing to do,” Gamble said in a statement to the News. “We committed to this as part of our comprehensive reforms and I believe the government agrees that the sale of Cabin 4 should go forward to an independent buyer and the proceeds from the sale should go back to what our membership intended it be used for to begin with.”
The vacation home may be the most visible sign of the financial hijinks – a charitable description – that past union leaders have engaged in. Williams hasn’t been indicted in the ongoing investigation that most recently secured a guilty plea from the man who succeeded him atop the UAW, Gary Jones. However, investigators haven’t suggested he isn’t under scrutiny.
Jones, 63, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to embezzle more than $1 million in UAW dues money and conspiring to use a facility of interstate commerce to aid racketeering crimes. He also pleaded guilty to a separate count of conspiring to defraud the United States by evading the payment of taxes on embezzled funds and causing the UAW to file false tax returns during the same period of time.
The reputation of UAW has taken a beating during the past 18 months as federal investigators charged executive after executive with some form of financial crimes ranging from embezzlement to tax fraud. U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider hasn’t eliminated the possibility that oversight of the UAW could be transferred to federal authorities, much like the Teamsters union, which only recently was released from similar control.