It’s a bit galling that the New Gilded Age has unleashed uncontrolled rich people behavior with levels of naked corruption unseen in decades, with the most corrupt of all of them now in the White House, while the government seeks to crack down on union leaders when they engage in lower level corruption. However, there’s little question that United Auto Workers leadership was engaging in very questionable behavior and we in the labor movement simply can’t tolerate it.
Federal prosecutors have charged a former president of the United Auto Workers union with embezzlement of union funds and other crimes, the biggest step yet in a broad investigation of financial wrongdoing by union and management officials.
In a criminal filing unsealed Thursday, the former official, Gary Jones, is accused of misusing more than $1 million of union money, for extravagant meals, golf outings, cigars and apparel over several years even before he was elected president in 2018.
He is the highest-ranking U.A.W. official charged in the inquiry. In August, his home in Canton, Mich., was raided by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He resigned Nov. 20 after the union’s executive board found he had submitted false and misleading expense records and was moving to oust him.
Last fall, Mr. Jones guided the union through a 40-day strike against General Motors that ended with substantial pay increases, promises of large investments in plants in the United States and a process for temporary workers to become permanent employees.
More than a dozen people have been charged in the investigation, which began in 2015 and has focused on misuse of millions of dollars of U.A.W. funds in various ways. Three former Fiat Chrysler executives have been sentenced on charges that they allowed U.A.W. officials to divert money from worker training to personal travel and shopping. One of the Fiat Chrysler executives was found to have used training funds to buy a Ferrari sports car and renovate his home.
The allegations have also prompted a lawsuit by General Motors accusing Fiat Chrysler of bribing union officials to get a leg up on G.M. in contract negotiations.
Mr. Jones’s predecessor as union president, Dennis Williams, has also been a focus of the investigation. A plea agreement in February with a onetime deputy to Mr. Jones indicated that Mr. Williams had urged the use of union money to benefit himself and other officials.
Another senior union official, Joe Ashton, who once held a seat on G.M.’s board, has been charged with taking kickbacks from companies that supplied the union with commemorative watches.
Before becoming U.A.W. president, Mr. Jones headed a regional office spanning 17 states and organized union conferences in Palm Springs, Calif. Prosecutors contend in court filings that he and other officials spent more than $1 million in union money for extended stays in luxury villas, lavish dinners, and expensive clothing, cigars and golf clubs.
Power corrupts. It’s a huge problem for all humans. Unions have a sliver of the power they used to, especially the UAW which used to be one of the most powerful institutions in the United States. But they still have access to a lot of money and it’s very easy to live the fancy lifestyle when it isn’t your money. So yeah, throw the book at him and any union official that spends union dues to pretend like it is 1952.