By on July 26, 2018

Remember the multi-million dollar corruption scandal involving UAW officials? Apparently, it was even more corrupt than previously reported. While the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center is suing both Fiat Chrysler and the union members involved, recent developments point to the money scheme being greenlit by former UAW President Dennis Williams.

As part of a plea agreement filed this week, ex-labor official Nancy Adams Johnson told investigators that Williams specifically directed union members to use funds from Detroit’s automakers, funneled through training centers, to pay for union travel, meals, entertainment, and more. If true, the accusation not only implicates the UAW of corruption at the highest level but also the potential involvement of staff from both Ford and General Motors — something the FBI is already looking into.

I believe the official industry term for something like this is a “shit show.” 

Williams retired from the UAW in June after more than 40 years with the union. However, it’s the last four, when he served as president, that has federal investigators the most interested. A large portion of his work involved balancing the budget and helping the UAW keep the status quo during a period of stagnating wages and financial trouble. It now seems that he may have been involved in some downright grimy business on the side.

“To be clear: those who misallocated or misused training center funds betrayed our trust,” Williams told union members at the UAW’s Constitutional Convention for this year. “The UAW has zero tolerance for corruption, wrongdoing, at any level of this organization.”

While Adams Johnson’s plea agreement only identifies a “high-level UAW official” who made the directive to tap into the training center funds, sources familiar with the case told The Detroit News she mentioned Williams specifically. Williams has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing, but it was believed that the FBI had already taken an interest in him during its investigation.

“Sometime in 2014 or 2015, a high-level UAW official directed senior UAW officials to use money supplied by automobile manufacturing companies through joint UAW training centers to pay for travel, including travel solely for purported union business, as well as lavish meal and other entertainment costs of senior UAW officials and their friends, family and allies,” read Adams Johnson’s plea agreement. “This directive was issued in order to reduce costs to the UAW budget from such expenditures because the UAW’s budget was under pressure.”

This also helps confirm FBI suspicions that looking outside Fiat Chrysler for cooperative corruption is a prudent course of action. By now, FCA’s role in the scandal is well understood. Former FCA labor negotiator Alphons Iacobelli, along with numerous UAW members, were caught with money they shouldn’t have had, leading to new plea agreements that led to additional indictments. The FBI now believes there is a very real possibility that both General Motors and Ford Motor Co. sent gifts to UAW officials in exchange for favorable bargaining. The FBI has already taken an interest in Joe Ashton, a retired UAW vice president appointed to GM’s board in 2014, and Cindy Estrada, his successor.

Former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell could also be wading into hotter water. A person of interest for quite some time, Jewell was previously linked to the conspiracy involving Fiat Chrysler executives funneling illegal payments and benefits to UAW officials who wouldn’t fight quite so hard for workers. Iacobelli claimed he approved more than $30,000 in worker training funds on a party for Jewell in August of 2014 — which included models who lit labor leaders’ cigars, expensive booze, and wine bottles with Jewell’s name on them. As extravagant as that may sound, it pales in comparison to the amount Iacobelli spent on himself. If you’ll recall, he was the guy who bought himself a Ferrari and two bejeweled Montblanc pens.

While Jewell hasn’t been charged, his home was raided by the FBI in 2017. It’s believed investigators are currently building a case against him.

Since the corruption scandal began prior to Williams’ installment as president of the union, investigators also looked at his predecessor Bob King. However, that appears to be a dead end. According to the indictment charging Iacobelli and Monica Morgan-Holiefield (widow of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield), King opposed any dealings that could have been misinterpreted as shady.

According to court documents, King confronted Holiefield and Iacobelli about the selection of Holiefield’s wife as a vendor for the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center and a nonprofit controlled by Holiefield in 2011. He suggested that paying Monica Morgan was a bad idea and that they could “go to jail,” instructing them not to direct any additional business her way.

Of course, they did the exact opposite, and the nonprofit is now known to be one of several fronts for hiding the embezzled funds. Both Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield have plead guilty for their crimes relating to the scandal. She was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison on July 13th, while Iacobelli is awaiting a possible eight-year sentence — depending on his own plea agreement.

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17 Comments on “Solidarity: New UAW Corruption Scandal Details Implicate Union at Highest Level...”

  • avatar

    “I’m shocked, shocked to find there’s gambling going on in here!” – Captain Renault, ‘Casablanca’

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “The UAW has zero tolerance for corruption, wrongdoing, at any level of this organization.”

    Quote of the day.

  • avatar

    Union president seems like a pretty awesome job.

    I would like to hear more about those “entertainment expenses.”

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    The American taxpayers should get compensated for the illegal reassignment of rank in the bankruptcy proceedings of GM and Chrysler. The unions should make the taxpayers whole for the money they were not due to prop up their pensions; then the monies can be reassigned to the stock and shareholders that had rights that were quashed by the Obama administration. And I hope this bankrupts the unions.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Well nothing new regarding corruption in unions. Just watch On the Waterfront or Hoffa.

    However two points that are being largely ignored:
    1) Senior executives at FCA were involved by offering gifts, etc for favourable treatment. And it is now alleged that the same may have occurred with Ford and GM executives. That is also an illegal activity.
    2) The investigation has been ongoing for a number of years, with only 2 guilty pleas to date. So those encouraging this investigation should remember that conspiracy and corruption investigations may take many, many years to complete.

  • avatar

    The UAW is kind of like Corporate America (which it ostensibly protects its members from)–very lucrative for those who make it to the top!

    It’s also kind of Ponzi-ish–to maintain the older workers pay and benefits, the newer ones do the same jobs for less. So much for “equal pay for equal work”.

    On the other hand, the sad truth is without unions, Americans might not have thing they take (no, TOOK) for granted, like decent wages, a 40-hour week. Big three non-union (salary/management) manufacturing employees get better pay and benefits than they might otherwise.

    And the UAW does set a floor on wages, so autoworkers in foreign-owned plants in the US get a free ride of sorts. Their employers make sure to keep their wages comparable, lest their plants become unionized.

    The best one I heard about dealing with a union is this: “OK, Jack comes into work drunk. So you send him home, and don’t pay him. The union will write a grievance against management for (pick a reason–discrimination, harassment, being ‘unfair’, anything. ESPECIALLY if the person is popular)

    HOWEVER, if you don’t throw the worker out, and he/she does something dumb that injures, or nearly injures another worker, the union will write a grievance against management for endangering or injuring another worker.

    You can’t win”

    • 0 avatar

      You have stated my mixed feelings about unions very eloquently.

    • 0 avatar

      All of that “brotherhood” nonsense ends at the door of the local. The real “benefit” of unions is working for the union, not being a member. This is all well and good in an industry where people actually earn a decent living, but when states force low income workers to pay union graft it’s kind of disgusting. If workers accept housing assistance or food stamps they should not be paying union dues, why should taxpayers support private unions? Healthcare unions are a good example of this. Public unions are different form of theft altogether,

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Sub600, Your posting seems a little disjointed.

        “Well and good if you make a decent living.” Don’t public service workers fall under this parameter? If so then how is it “theft”.

        And regarding “low income workers”, doesn’t the union negotiate better pay rates, working conditions and job security than they would have had without the union? Therefore do they not get a ‘benefit’ from their union dues?

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Every once in a while a story trickles out that reminds why I have never and will never buy a UAW made vehicle. I’ll support American workers by limiting my choices to transplant or foreign. Too bad, because I fancied myself a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

  • avatar

    So we’re throwing all of the blame on the bribed and not mentioning those who paid the bribes?

    Don’t get me wrong, the UAW leadership deserves all the jail time they end up getting, but we shouldn’t ignore the corporate executives who bought them.

  • avatar

    ” If workers accept housing assistance or food stamps they should not be paying union dues, why should taxpayers support private unions?”
    And the “taxpayers” should not be supporting the likes of WalMart and Uber who’s workers often get food stamps and housing assistance.

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