The United Auto Workers is charting its future. Following a slew of corruption and fraud related charges of individuals at the highest level of its operations, the UAW said December 14 it had reached a formal agreement with U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider on how it would navigate ridding the union of corruption.
The consent order, announced jointly by the UAW and the Eastern District of Michigan, will ask a judge to appoint an independent monitor with the authority to discipline UAW members, investigate fraud or corruption in the union. The initial term for the monitor’s service is set for six years, although the agreement also provides for that term to be shortened or extended.
Additionally, the UAW will conduct a secret-ballot binding referendum of its own membership, in which members will decide whether to retain its currently-existing delegate system of elections, or to change to a model in which UAW members directly elect UAW presidents and executives or not. If membership elects to switch to the “direct vote” option, the change will become effective in the 2022 election cycle.
Once a judge approves the agreement in court, it will absolve the UAW from all further criminal and civil litigation related to the Justice Department’s investigations. The UAW has also agreed to resolve a tax conflict by paying the IRS $1.5 million in addition to $15 million already returned related to improper chargebacks.
UAW President Rory Gamble said the consent order adds to the reforms already implemented by the union over the past year. The leadership of the UAW “embraces the involvement of a monitor,” he said in a statement, which would “provide an extra and independent set of eyes on our Union’s financial and disciplinary processes, and provide complete assurance to our members that the reforms we have initiated take permanent root.”
“We are committed to making the Monitor’s job a boring one, by doing everything we can to make sure there are no financial or ethical misconduct issues to monitor,” said Gamble.
U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said “The men and women of the UAW deserve honest and faithful leaders dedicated to serving the best interests of the membership.” The settlement, said Schneider, would provide independent oversight and bring democratic change to the union in the opportunity for it to change its election structure. He also thanked Gamble for his “good faith willingness to press for real reform within the union.”
The Justice Department’s completed investigation into corruption in the UAW has led to convictions against 15 defendants, including two former UAW Presidents, Dennis Williams and Gary Jones, and Joseph Ashton, a former vice president of the UAW and a former board member of General Motors Co.
Despite the completion of investigations into the UAW itself, Schneider said that investigations into alleged connections of Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are ongoing.