UAW Corruption Probe Targets Union's GM Department, Turns up a Warehouse of Watches

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
uaw corruption probe targets unions gm department turns up a warehouse of watches

There are so many accused and convicted players in the United Auto Workers corruption scandal, it would make for confusing viewing were it made into a film. Already, federal prosecutors have fingered or convicted numerous high-ranking UAW officials tied to the Fiat Chrysler file. Now, investigators are moving on to General Motors.

Apparently, not many stones needed turning before investigators uncovered rot underneath.

According to several media reports this week, the recent charges laid against former UAW official Mike Grimes — who worked in the union’s GM department before retiring last year — turned up a number of co-conspirators in the wire-fraud and money-laundering case. Grimes stands accused of arranging nearly $2 million in kickbacks. Investigators say he had help in securing the cash in exchange for juicy contracts handed out to UAW contractors.

On Monday, The Detroit News, citing a total of seven sources with knowledge of the investigation, identified Grime’s alleged co-conspirators as former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton and his top deputy, Jeff Pietrzyk — known as “Paycheck” to his colleagues. An apt nickname, it would seem.

Ashton, who has not been charged, is alleged to have accepted $550,000 in bribes and kickbacks, including a princely quarter-million sum from a UAW wristwatch contract. The 2013 watch deal — a $4 million order made through the UAW-GM training center — was intended to provide all GM hourly workers with a custom-made watch. Some 58,000 watches still linger in a Detroit warehouse, prosecutors stated in the charges filed against Grimes.

From Automotive News:

Still, federal investigators say, the deal accomplished what it was intended to do. The UAW official who arranged it collected a $250,000 kickback. Two others split $95,000 disguised as payments for “furniture.” That still left well over $1 million in profit for the vendor — a Philadelphia chiropractor who got into the watch business solely to recoup a bad loan he had made to a friend of one of the union officials.

All three men served on the 2011 UAW negotiating team that hammered out a labor contract with GM. Grimes was also present on the 2015 team, alongside former UAW prez Dennis Williams (accused of, but not charged with, approving the misuse of training center funds for lavish gifts and travel) and current VP Cindy Estrada. At the time, Grimes worked as Estrada’s administrative assistant.

Speaking to The Detroit News, Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and current law professor at Wayne State University, said the charges against Grimes and allegations of kickbacks among top officials, “raises questions about how vigorously they represented UAW members.”

“If they were willing to take kickbacks, they may have been more about protecting their own position than trying to get the best deal possible out of General Motors,” he said, adding, “They all have a bullseye on their back.”

[Image: General Motors]

Join the conversation
2 of 22 comments
  • Bobbysirhan Next thing you know, EV drivers will be missing the freedom to travel on their own schedules instead of their cars'.
  • Cprescott I'm not surprised by this behavior - it is consistent with how owners of Honduhs, Toyoduhs, or Mazduhs drive. Without fail, these are the consistently obtuse drivers on the road.
  • MaintenanceCosts Timely question as this happened to me just this morning. The answer was "my kids were engaged in a stupid fight in the back seat." I was trying to drive and keep them from killing each other at once, and I cut off a pedestrian in a crosswalk while making a left turn. Thankfully I wasn't close enough to create serious danger, but it was a jerk driving move.
  • Dave M. "81 million supposedly". Landslide according to some statisticians.
  • SCE to AUX I drive an electric Hyundai, so by definition I am a Bad and Annoying Driver.