United Auto Workers President Gary Jones, who led negotiations that ended an almost six-week strike at General Motors Co., will take a leave of absence Sunday amid reports he is involved in a years-long corruption scandal. Those allegations clouded contract talks with U.S. automakers.
“I do not want anything to distract from the mission,” Jones said Saturday in an emailed statement after the union’s Executive Board approved the step. “I want to do what’s best for the members of this great union.”
UAW Vice President Rory Gamble, who negotiated an agreement announced this week with Ford Motor Co., will serve as acting president, the union said in the statement. Local unions must still approve the accord. Next up is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
The Detroit News said Thursday that the allegations were outlined in a criminal case filed against Edward “Nick” Robinson, 72, of St. Louis, president of a regional UAW community action program council. He was charged with conspiracy to embezzle -- as much as $700,000 -- in union funds, the newspaper said.
Jones, 62, was not identified in the filing but he was referred to as “UAW Official A,” according to people familiar with the investigation cited by the newspaper.
The mild-mannered finance man was nowhere to be seen when the UAW announced the strike against GM on Sept. 15 in Detroit.
The already low-profile Jones had been incognito since he was implicated -- but not indicted -- in a federal charging document that accompanied the Sept. 12 arrest of UAW regional director Vance Pearson on conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud and other charges.
Pearson succeeded Jones as the head of the UAW’s largest region and a member of the union’s international executive board.
Jones’s attorney, Bruce Maffeo, told The Detroit News the president is taking paid leave.
While Jones isn’t named and hasn’t been charged, his home was raided in late August. The government’s complaint mentions the search of a current UAW officer’s residence that turned up items similar to those Pearson is accused of buying with members’ dues.
GM workers ratified the four-year labor agreement on Oct. 24. Union leaders then endorsed a tentative deal with Ford, and sent it to workers for a ratification vote after negotiations that lacked the drama with GM.
Unlike the GM deal, Ford and the UAW are not planning to close their joint training center in Detroit. Union training centers run jointly with GM and Fiat Chrysler have been at the center of an ongoing federal corruption probe.