UAW Prez Steps Asides as Federal Corruption Probe Deepens

United Auto Workers President Gary Jones and General Motors CEO and Chairman Mary Barra shake hands during an event on Sept. 3 to officially open contract negotiations in Detroit. (General Motors)

UAW President Gary Jones has taken paid administrative leave as the four-year federal investigation into the UAW, begun under the Obama Administration, has deepened.

In his place, Rory Gamble, a protege of Jones, who previously headed up the UAW’s Ford Division, has taken over as acting President of the UAW. 

The move comes after Jones survived a failed mutiny by UAW Executive Board members in September, who felt that Jones’ presence was hurting the union in their efforts to reach a contract during the six weeks long GM strike 

Many workers interviewed by Payday Report during the GM strike criticized the UAW for rushing and underprepared into the strike as the corruption scandal distracted the UAW’s top leadership. Many speculated that UAW President Gary Jones called the strike with little preparation in a desperate bid to cling to power. 

Rank-and-file members accused the union of engaging in secretive bargaining that resulted in a controversial contract that gives up key contract language on plant closings. (See Payday’s reporting on how secretive bargaining hurt the UAW in the GM strike). 

Jones stepping down was called for by the UAW’s Executive Board, who felt that Jones’ presence at the helm of the union was distracting the unions’ efforts. 

“The UAW is fighting tooth and nail to ensure our members have a brighter future. I do not want anything to distract from the mission,” Jones said in a statement released earlier this week. “I want to do what’s best for the members of this great union.”

Many expect Jones’s departure to become permanent. Federal authorities have indicated that they intend to indict Jones for embezzling money from the union and leading a federal conspiracy to accept bribes from employers in exchange for concessions at the bargaining table. 

Already, 6 top UAW officials have been convicted or plead guilty to breaking federal law. Federal documents even revealed that UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell received bribes from Chrysler Executives, including “a $25,065 “decadent” party with strolling models lighting labor leaders’ cigars and wine bottles featuring Jewell’s name on the label.”

Two former deputies of Jones have already accused Jones of directly an illegal federal conspiracy to embezzle money and take bribes. 

Last week, federal authorities indicted another of Jones’ top lieutenants, Edward “Nick” Robinson. According to federal documents, Robinson and Jones conspired to personally divide more than $700,000 in union members’ money.

 “After Edward N. Robinson obtained the cash, he split the hundreds of thousands in dollars in cash proceeds with UAW Official A…,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Gardey and Steven Cares wrote in court filings last week.  Investigative reporting by the Detroit News has identified Gary Jones as “UAW Official A”. 

Federal authorities also indicated they intended to present recordings of conversations that showed that Robinson conspired to destroy evidence in the federal investigation. In July, a suspicious fire at the UAW’s headquarters, Solidarity House, in Detroit destroyed many of the union’s internal databases of emails and communications. 

The new evidence comes as speculation grows that the Trump Administration may charge UAW labor leaders with racketeering and place them under direct government oversight. If Trump were to put the UAW, it could allow him to claim that he is a true champion of workers, not UAW leaders, many of whom feel sold out by the UAW’s agreement to the end of the GM strike. 

Jones has retained as his lawyer J. Bruce Maffeo, who previously represented the Teamsters and the Hoffa Administration against federal corruption charges. 

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing over 1,800 stories from 46 states, Elk was the only American reporter in the room with Lula on the morning of the election & traveled with him to the Oval Office. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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