Newly installed United Auto Workers President Ray Curry has been hit with an ethics charge, involving the use of $2,000 tickets to a championship college football game in 2017 when he served as the UAW’s regional director for the southeastern United States.
The charges were disclosed in a report produced by the court-appointed monitor put in place under the terms of a settlement of the racketeering charges filed against the UAW in 2020 by the U.S. Department of Justice. No criminal charges will be filed against Curry, who became UAW president July 1.
Any penalty in Curry’s case would be decided by the ethics officer to whom the court-appointed monitor has delegated.
Curry told the monitor, according to the report, he accepted the tickets from a vendor handling advertising for the UAW at various sporting events to a championship game in Atlanta. He told investigators he invited three other UAW involved in contract negotiations with him to the game, according to the Monitor’s report.
The UAW’s internal rules prohibit any union officer or official from accepting tickets for entertainment or sporting events from a vendor doing business with the union.
The union’s internal ethics officer was recruited earlier this year as part of the internal reforms the UAW was pressed into making in the wake of a federal investigation that sent a dozen different UAW officials, including two former UAW presidents, Dennis Williams and Gary Jones, to prison.
UAW at crossroads
The charge against Curry, and by extension the UAW’s established leadership, come at a critical time for the union, which is engaged in a difficult strike involving 10,000 members employed at John Deere and trying to help move pro-union legislation that would give electric vehicles built in unionized car plants extra tax credits.
Just this week, another union official in the Detroit area was charged by federal prosecutors with embezzling more than $2 million in union cash to fund his gambling habit, further damaging the UAW’s battered reputation.
In addition, union members and retirees are now voting in a referendum supervised by the monitor about implementing sweeping changes in the way the union selects top officers. Union members are being asked if they want to keep the current system where officers a selected by delegates at convention or switch system where officers would be elected directly by union members.
The referendum to serve as a test of the confidence in the UAW’s current leadership, which is opposed to the idea of direct election.
Curry acknowledges mistake
Curry, who was elected to become the UAW’s financial secretary by delegates to the UAW convention in 2018 on a slate headed by the disgraced Gary Jones, said in a letter to UAW members he was proud of the work being done to reform the union’s internal practices to prevent future scandals.
“As described in his report, the Monitor concluded that my conduct did not meet the Monitor’s threshold for initiating a disciplinary charge and has instead referred the matter to the UAW’s Ethics Officer.
“The UAW’s Ethics Officer is currently reviewing the matter. The IEB earlier reviewed the matter and determined that there was no violation of the existing union policy and also determined that since I voluntarily and without any request or demand repaid the value of the tickets, no further individual action was necessary. Despite this ruling, I am personally pained that any question whatsoever was raised as a result of any action on my part.”