United Auto Workers, US Attorney reach deal to reform union after scandal

Midwest

FILE – In this June 17, 2020, file photo, United Auto Workers Vice President Joe Ashton addresses the autoworker’s convention in Detroit. Ashton, a former United Auto Workers vice president who took a $250,000 kickback on a watch contract was sentenced Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, to 2 1/2 years in prison, the latest punishment in what the government calls “systemic” corruption at the highest ranks of the union. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

DETROIT (AP) — The United Auto Workers (UAW) and the U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit say they have reached a settlement to reform the union in the wake of a wide-ranging bribery and embezzlement scandal.

Terms of the deal will be announced at a Monday afternoon news conference in Detroit.

The union has been in the throes of the scandal for years as the government probed corruption in its upper ranks. The investigation has led to 11 convictions, including that of two former presidents. Many of the officials were accused of conspiring with others to cover up the use of union cash for boozy meals, premium cigars, golf and lodging in Palm Springs, California.

Details of the civil settlement weren’t available. But it is likely to include an independent monitor to watch the 400,000-member union’s finances and a possible change in the way union leaders are elected.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, who has called for the reforms, and current UAW President Rory Gamble are scheduled to attend Monday’s announcement.

Former UAW President Dennis Williams in September pleaded guilty in the government’s investigation. His successor as president, Gary Jones, pleaded guilty in June.

Williams, 67, was president from 2014 until he retired in 2018. He was accused of conspiring with others to cover up the source of cash for expensive meals, cigars and large expenses.

The union’s Region 5 leadership, which was based in Missouri and headed by Jones, would hold weeklong retreats in Palm Springs and invite Williams along. He said he stayed beyond “what my union business required.”

Williams told a judge that he wondered if money was being misused but that he was assured by Jones that “everything was above board.”

More than $53,000 in union money was used to rent a villa for Williams for monthslong stays in 2015-18, according to a court filing.

He faces a likely prison sentence of 18 to 24 months.

With about 400,000 members, the Detroit-based UAW is best known for representing 150,000 workers at Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Ford Motor.

Williams has repaid $55,000 in inappropriate travel expenses, the union said. Separately, the UAW is selling a lakefront house built for him at a union conference center in northern Michigan.

Eleven union officials and a late official’s spouse have pleaded guilty since 2017, although not all the crimes were connected. The first wave of convictions, which included some Fiat Chrysler employees, involved taking money from a Fiat Chrysler-UAW training center in Detroit.

© 1998 - 2021 Nexstar Inc. | All Rights Reserved.