Under pressure from a lengthy federal investigation that led to the conviction of two former union presidents on criminal charges, the United Auto Workers agreed to a settlement that will place the union’s finances and its internal elections under the supervision of an outside monitor for least the next six years.
Matthew Schneider, the U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Michigan, also said during a press conference that UAW members will decide in referendum whether to select the UAW’s top officers through a direct election or continue the union’s current system of choosing officers through a delegate and convention system.
The date for the referendum will be set sometime after the outside monitor is selected and approved by federal judge but before the UAW’s next constitutional convention in the summer of 2022, Schneider said. The UAW will nominate three potential monitors and the U.S. Attorney will make a recommendation to the federal judge supervising the settlement.
In one concession to the union, the settlement of the civil suit brought by the U.S. attorney will include a sunset provision ending the monitor. The UAW, however, will have to pay for the cost of the monitor, which could run up substantial bills, UAW officials said.
Schneider emphasized the monitor will have no role in the union’s collective bargaining at the companies or institutions where the UAW represents employees and for whom the union is the bargaining agent.
The U.S. attorney also made a point of saying that that the five-year investigation, which involved agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor, turned up no evidence of infiltration by organized crime figures. The UAW was not corrupted by organized crime like the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and, as a result, placed under federal supervision three decades ago. The Teamsters just regained full independence earlier this year.
Schneider said his office is continuing the investigate corruption cases but made a point of exonerating Rory Gamble, the UAW’s current president, who negotiated the settlement with the U.S. Attorney. “I don’t have any reason to investigate Mr.
Gamble,” Schneider said, adding he would not have agreed to a joint press conference with the UAW president if he had.
Gamble, who was labeled as a target of the investigation by The Detroit News, said he was the victim of shoddy journalism.
However, he also acknowledged that several UAW officers and appointed officials violated their oaths of office, while stealing from the union and its training funds. Former UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams pleaded guilty to federal crimes as have former UAW vice presidents Joe Ashton Norwood Jewell.
Another former member of the UAW executive board, Vance Pearson, is slated to be sentenced this week. A half dozen UAW officials, who had access to union funds, also have been convicted of federal crimes.
Federal authorities accused the union officials of embezzling $1.5 million in union funds and skimming another $3.5 million from training funds. In addition, the union agreed to repay $15 million to joint training funds the union operates with General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.
A third UAW vice president, General Holiefield, was accused in court papers of accepting bribes from officials from Fiat Chrysler. However, he died before being indicted by a federal grand jury. Holiefield’s wife, Monica Morgan, pleaded guilty to tax evasion.
Gamble, who has served on the UAW’s top executive board since 2006, said he was shocked by the corruption uncovered by federal investigators. “I am just dumfounded by some of this behavior,” he said. “You think you know someone, but it turns out you don’t,” said Gamble, noting he believes those identified in the scandal deserve to be punished. The union also has put in new safeguards to ensure money is not misappropriated in the future.
Gamble also noted that effective representation in the workplace. “I think it’s wrong to paint all of us with one brush,” he said.