UAW/FCA Corruption Scandal Grows

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Norwood Jewell, the former head of the United Auto Workers’ unit attached to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, has been charged by federal prosecutors in Detroit with violating the Labor Management Relations Act. This makes him the highest ranking UAW member to be charged in the union corruption case that appeared to be on pause while investigators reexamined suspects, following a string of convictions in 2018.

Federal investigators are relatively certain that FCA engaged in the widespread bribery of union officials who were able to tap into funds allocated for their National Training Center — a scheme dating back to 2009. According to defamed former FCA vice president Alphons Iacobelli, the goal was to keep union officials “ fat, dumb and happy.” Millions of dollars were believed to have been used to buy the UAW’s cooperation, and Jewell appears to have gotten a slice.

According to Bloomberg, court documents indicate Jewell became involved in the conspiracy in 2014, immediately after his election as vice president of the union. As head of the union’s wheelings and dealings with FCA, he served as chairman of the National Training Center’s Joint Activities Board and helped oversee payments from the center. He was also on the UAW’s national negotiating committee for the last labor contract with FCA in 2015, making him a person of interest.

From Bloomberg:

The U.S. alleges that Jewell used his National Training Center credit card, or authorized another official to use hers, to charge the costs of multiple expensive dinners at steakhouses in California and Michigan, with the center using FCA funds to pay the bills. Jewell charged $7,569.55 for one meal in January 2015 at LT’s Prime Steakhouse [sic] in Palm Springs, California, the U.S. said.

That must have been an amazing dinner. While we couldn’t find a restaurant by that name in Palm Springs, we did locate a restaurant called “LG’s Prime Steakhouse” that sold 18-ounce bone-in steaks at $74 a pop as its most expensive menu item. Jewell would have had to purchase 102 of them in a single evening to amass such an impressive bill.

Peter Henning, law professor at Wayne State University and a former federal prosecutor, said he believes the decision to file charges against Jewell without going through a grand jury is indicative that he’s cooperating with authorities in exchange for a more lenient sentence — like Iacobelli had done previously. He also suggested the allegation that FCA executives conspired with the company and the UAW, as well as with individual union officials, is a clear sign the government is looking for evidence of more systematic corruption.

“[Jewell is working with prosecutors] towards a fair and just resolution,” explained his attorney, Michael Manley. “We are confident that when the facts of the case come out as it relates to Mr. Jewell, his decades-long reputation of honorable service to members of the UAW will remain intact.”

The UAW has repeatedly claimed that the scandal never compromised collective bargaining agreements with Fiat Chrysler, stressing that measures have been taken to ensure the “misuse of funds” never happens again. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler wants the world to know that the scandal was the work of a few reprobates within the company.

“FCA US firmly restates that it was a victim of illegal conduct by certain rogue individuals who formerly held leadership roles at the National Training Center,” an FCA spokeswoman said on Monday. “The conduct of these individuals — for their personal enrichment and neither at the direction nor for the benefit of the company — had no impact on the collective bargaining process.”

[Image: James R. Martin/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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4 of 11 comments
  • Walleyeman57 Walleyeman57 on Mar 20, 2019

    I'm sure the membership would be more than willing to hand out the punishment to these creeps. Give everyone a paddle and send the offenders through the rickets.

  • Thelaine Thelaine on Mar 20, 2019

    Union leaders everywhere are just organized crime bosses. It is the nature of the job.

    • EGSE EGSE on Mar 20, 2019

      They can't help themselves. Their numbers are shrinking and the world is changing. The foreign transplants in the U.S. have figured out some things the UAW cabal hasn't or refuses to grasp while the ROW has increased interest from the Detroit Three. Sticking with a plan that hasn't worked means extinction will only happen faster. The outright corruption and self-serving attitude is only one aspect of their failed business model.

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  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
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