'Operation Clean-up' Begins in Earnest at the UAW

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

They’re not calling it that, but we are. The United Auto Workers, rocked by scandal and indictments stemming from an ongoing federal corruption probe, is embarking on a serious clean-up operation in a bid to maintain its autonomy.

Under the direction of Acting President Rory Gamble, the union has outlined a series of reforms intended to keep the federal government from stepping in and grabbing the tiller.

In a message to members, Gamble, who assumed the top spot after President Gary Jones stepped aside two weeks ago amid growing suspicion of embezzlement, said he is “committed to putting in place the right mechanisms to safeguard our union, regaining the trust of our members, and ensuring the misconduct that has recently come to light will never happen again.”

Claiming that these efforts are “just the beginning,” Gamble said the reforms — to be implemented immediately — lay the “foundation for a more transparent, more accountable, and more responsible future for our union.”

The measures are many, but include:

  • The creation of an Ethics Ombudsman to receive and review complaints and allegations
  • The creation of an external Ethics Officer to investigate such complaints (the search begins immediately for a recruit)
  • A new enforcement policy to deter the misuse of funds, one which includes a “commitment to seek recovery of all misused or misappropriated funds”
  • Increased oversight by the UAW Accounting Department and more stringent monetary controls
  • The creation of an Ethics Hotline that guarantees anonymity to those looking to expose financial misdeeds
  • “The banning of all charitable contributions from UAW joint program centers, vendors, or employers to any charities run or controlled by UAW officials”

Thirteen current or former UAW and Detroit Three automaker officials have so far been collared in the sweeping corruption probe. Prosecutors claim numerous named and unnamed UAW officials spent years misusing members’ dues, funnelling cash away from training centers and spending it on rented villas, booze, and various toys. Other schemes aimed to draw kickbacks from contracts awarded to friends of UAW officials.

Last week, former vice president Joe Ashton was charged with bribery and money laundering. He stands accused of profiting from a contract awarded to his chiropractor for the creation of 58,000 UAW watches. The watches, still sitting in storage in a Detroit warehouse, never saw the wrist of a single UAW worker.

Days earlier, embezzlement charges were laid against Edward Robinson, a UAW official who served as Jones’ right-hand man. Media outlets named Jones as one of the unnamed co-conspirators listed in court documents.

In his message to members, Gamble also said that “Cabin Four,” an upscale retreat built for former President Dennis Williams for the reported price of $1.3 million, will be sold off, along with the surrounding property.

[Image: UAW]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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