General Motors refuses to let the dismissal of its federal racketeering case against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles stand in the way of getting what it believes is true justice. On Monday, the automaker filed its latest claim with Wayne County Circuit Court in Michigan. These are separate from the New Jersey lawsuit it has targeting former board member and ex-UAW vice president Joe Ashton, who GM has accused of being a hired mole. However, Ashton was named in the trio of new court filings, along with Alphons Iacobelli — the man who pled guilty to embezzling union funds and kicked off a gigantic federal corruption investigation into the UAW.
The automaker also named some of the banks it claimed were involved in the union scandal and continues to allege that FCA “provided millions of dollars to co-conspirators via numerous undisclosed offshore bank accounts and utilized such accounts to purchase the support and silence of numerous high-level UAW officers and FCA executives.” Fiat Chrysler’s assumed goal? Forcing General Motors into a merger or destroy it if the merger failed by negotiating favorable terms with the union and encouraging leadership into adopting positions that would harm GM.
Unifor has selected the Ford Motor Company as its target for collective bargaining. Once negotiations conclude, the union will be using the terms established with the automaker to lay the groundwork for pattern deals with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
While the talks have not yet begun, we already know Unifor wants to cement production commitments in Oakville, Ontario, where Ford is rumored to be ending Edge assembly. It would also like to secure deals for FCA plants in Brampton and Windsor. Naturally, the union will also be demanding wage increases — though this is sometimes the most contentious issue. Contract talks from 2016 became stuck in the mud over higher pay until Ford insisted employees remain subject to a 10-year wage grow-in that union members had been split on. It’s unclear if that will remain the case in 2020 but we genuinely haven’t had high hopes for the Union pulling out anything that resembles a major victory.
With its members having recently voted to strike if bargaining teams don’t make headway, Canadian autoworkers union Unifor plans to reveal its first target next Tuesday. Contract talks kicked off last month, with Unifor aiming to maintain, at the very least, the current complement of Detroit Three workers north of the border.
With the auto industry in continued retreat in Canada, Unifor knows that the next four years could be the term in which one of the Detroit Three ceases to manufacture vehicles on Canuck soil. What’s left in the country is starting to look threadbare and futureless. Maybe some public cash will sweeten the landscape?
Unifor, the union representing autoworkers in the Greater South Detroit Area (GSDA, also known as Canada), has voted to add a walkout to its list of bargaining tools. The union’s membership, unsurprisingly, voted to allow their bargaining committees to threaten or initiate a strike if Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler don’t pony up at the table.
There’s a good possibility Unifor members might get a chance to exercise this time-honored tactic of organized labor, if last fall’s GM walkout in the U.S. is any indication. And we all know that Canada, which has already lost plenty of auto manufacturing in past decades, has a lot more to lose.
The writing was on the wall for months, ever since federal agents raided former United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams’ home last September.
Since hosting those gun-toting visitors, Williams cooled his heels, uncharged by waiting for the inevitable hammer to drop. We say inevitable, as Williams’ name was mentioned as a co-conspirator in the trial of another UAW official, with Williams accused of funneling funds earmarked for UAW members into lavish living and gifts for himself and his fellow embezzlers.
In the meantime, Williams watched the union’s previous president — his successor — step down and subsequently be charged for the same illicit deeds court documents claim he performed.
On Thursday, the inevitable came.
Alleged absenteeism stemming from the coronavirus outbreak encouraged General Motors to place salaried volunteers on assembly lines in Wentzville, MO. This has not gone over well with the UAW, which suggests GM’s decision to utilize non-union staff is in direct violation of its 2019 labor contract. The union claims white-collar workers have no business being on assembly lines and has issued a formal warning to the automaker.
Established in 1983 as a stamping and production facility, the site is currently responsible for General Motors’ full-size vans (e.g. Chevrolet Express) and midsize trucks (Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon). The facility has room for 4,560 employees — most of whom are hourly. Those employees are split between the the usual three shifts, with GM claiming difficulties in keeping them populated.
In July, the company said it might have to reduce the plant to just two shifts before pressure from outside convinced it otherwise. This led to the automaker seeking about 200 temporary workers and placing ads with local outlets.
General Motors’ attempt to revive its RICO lawsuit has failed after a federal court claimed the new evidence presented was too speculative to start the legal process back up. U.S. District Judge Paul Borman dismissed the case with prejudice in July, calling it a “waste of time,” but GM returned with new evidence it hoped might turn the tables.
Filed in November, the General’s case against FCA claims its rival finagled a labor advantage by bribing UAW officials during key contract negotiations. With a federal corruption case still probing the union, and with Fiat Chrysler’s known involvement, it seems like GM might have had a case here. But Judge Borman didn’t think there was sufficient evidence before, and hasn’t changed his mind since.
Unifor will take on the Detroit automakers this week, with the Canadian union undoubtedly planning to do everything within its power to keep as many jobs as it can manage. Unfortunately, that might be easier said than done, what with vehicle demand suppressed by months of lockdowns and an associated economic recession. Despite the positivity surrounding Wall Street, regular folks aren’t in the mood to buy lately.
No matter. Union negotiations are always famously contentious anyway. Corporations want rock-bottom prices for top-shelf work and labor associations always have to ask for more to rationalize their existence. Unifor President Jerry Dias noted that he’s ready for whatever the Big Three throw at him, though we doubt it will include totally sweet offers for line workers. The best the union can probably hope for in 2020 is not losing more Canadian jobs than absolutely necessary.
Last November, General Motors filed a racketeering suit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, claiming its rival was involved in a prolonged bribery scheme with UAW leaders to gain an unfair labor-cost advantage. Despite FCA already having staff participating in a vast union corruption scandal, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman dismissed the GM case in July after claiming there was nothing to it beyond petty corporate squabbling.
Now GM is back, claiming it has new evidence against FCA that’s going to blow the lid off everything.
On Monday, the General asked the court to reinstate the racketeering lawsuit. It now claims that there’s evidence of foreign bank accounts used in the alleged bribery scandal. We say “alleged” despite the FBI’s continued investigation into the UAW (separate from the GM-FCA suit) showing criminal levels of corruption. The company even suggested that Alphons Iacobelli ( who is already serving time for bribing union officials) channeled sensitive information back to FCA after being hired by GM. The claimed plot then has Fiat Chrysler paying the Iacobelli family millions of dollars via overseas accounts.
“These new facts warrant amending the court’s prior judgment, so we are respectfully asking the court to reinstate the case,” GM said.
Unifor hopes to sway the Canadian government toward an automotive strategy centered around the adoption and manufacturing of electric vehicles and a totally revised economic system. On Wednesday, the union released its “Road Map for a Fair, Inclusive and Resilient Economic Recovery” while announcing that corporations have failed everyone.
It’s all part the #BuildBackBetter campaign, which sees the coronavirus pandemic that made 2020 a collective — yet strangely isolating — hell for all of us as a unique opportunity to rebuild society under the banner of economic justice. “Unifor’s plan is designed to build a more strategic and self-reliant economy that can both withstand and prevent future crises,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in the initial announcement.
“This is an ambitious road map but I think ambition is what our country and its workers need right now.”
Gary Jones, the former United Auto Workers president who stepped down last November amid growing suspicion of wrongdoing, pleaded guilty Wednesday to involvement in a racketeering scheme that saw UAW officials soak themselves in funds earmarked for workers.
Jones is the biggest fish thus far caught in a wide net cast by federal investigators — a net that’s captured nearly a dozen current or former UAW execs with their hands in the till. In the former UAW prez’s case, more than a million dollars’ worth of union dues flowed not into training programs or other benefits, but into lavish living and high-priced toys.
Will Jones see a lengthy term in the clink, you ask? What do you think?
Former United Auto Workers President Gary Jones was arraigned via video link yesterday, catapulting the disgraced union boss back into the headlines two months after his arrest on charges of embezzlement, racketeering, and defrauding the U.S. government.
During a videoconference held by the U.S. District Court in Detroit, Jones’ attorney entered a not-guilty plea for his client, though the former UAW boss is expected to plead guilty in June. The manner in which Jones was charged gives every indication a plea deal is in the works, with Jones’ assistance in fingering co-conspirators offered in exchange for a reduced sentence.
The domestic auto industry is revving its engines, ready to cautiously punch the accelerator, but something’s standing in its way. That something would be United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble, who on Thursday appealed to companies to put the green flag away and think of their employees instead.
Seeing automakers angling for a production restart in the first week of May, the UAW boss said it was too early to move ahead.
“At this point in time, the UAW does not believe the scientific data is conclusive that it is safe to have our members back in the workplace,” Gamble said in a statement. “We have not done enough testing to really understand the threat our members face.”
With very little going on in the automotive realm amid the pandemic, we decided to check in on the United Auto Workers to see if another chapter had been added to the organization’s ongoing corruption scandal. Not much news on that front, though the union did announce its pick for presidential candidate. On Tuesday, it publicly embraced Joe Biden.
While Biden has long been the presumed UAW favorite, a March confrontation with a Detroit factory worker over the former vice president’s 2nd Amendment policies briefly resulted in a cadre of union members pushing back against the candidate over social media. At the time, the situation looked to have done real damage to his prospects of getting union endorsements in the Midwest. However, it seems the outrage was short-lived. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has taken great strides to appeal to factory workers living in states like Michigan and Ohio — measures that clearly helped get him elected in 2016.
Recall the UAW came out rather aggressively against Trump prior to the last election and ultimately endorsed Hilary Clinton. With that in mind, it would be almost unthinkable to see the union change course. It was probably always going to be Biden; the union just needed to make an the obligatory announcement.
Hoping to bounce back from its ongoing corruption scandal, the UAW announced the placement of its new independent ethics officer on Wednesday. The union group expressed a need for an independent ethics officer after Rory Gamble took over for defamed former UAW President Gary Jones late last year.
“As the acting president, I’m 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,” Jones explained in November. “That is why I am ordering immediate actions that will lay the foundation for a more transparent, more accountable, and more responsible future for our union.”
The UAW then launched an national search for an ethics officer. This week, it settled on former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board Wilma Liebman.
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