Per a report from POLITICO Pro, Republicans on the House Education and Labor Committee are urging their Democratic colleagues to hold a public hearing on the federal embezzlement probe into leaders of the United Auto Workers.
n a letter to Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions subcommittee Chairwoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) requested that the committee call a hearing to “confront the widespread, brazen lawbreaking by union leaders who purport to represent nearly 150,000 American autoworkers but have betrayed their trust in favor of self-enrichment.”
Last week three UAW leaders were implicated in a federal embezzlement investigation.
The Detroit News reported that UAW President Gary Jones and former president Dennis Williams were two unnamed officials accused in an indictment of helping orchestrate yearslong embezzlement of training center funds.
Separately, authorities arrested a member of the union’s executive board, Vance Pearson, on money laundering and fraud charges in connection with the same scheme.
The training-center scandal has sent eight people to prison so far, including high-level UAW officials accused of accepting bribes aimed at making them more pliable in bargaining. Former Vice President Norwood Jewell was sentenced to 15 months behind bars in August for using training-center funds to pay for rounds of golf and tickets to Disney World and other theme parks, among other lavish purchases.
The Republicans argue in the letter that discussing the probe publicly is “particularly important” because Democrats on the committee have introduced legislation that would broadly overhaul federal labor laws.
Democrat’s “Protecting the Right to Organize Act,” introduced earlier this year would strengthen collective bargaining rights and increase penalties to employers when they violate labor laws.
Provisions in the bill would allow employers and unions to agree contractually to the collection of such fees to help cover the cost of collective bargaining. It would also grant workers a private right of action, allowing them to bypass the NLRB and take lawsuits alleging violations of the NLRA directly to court.
Foxx and Walberg say the legislation is aimed at “significantly increasing the coercive power of labor leaders and decreasing their accountability, risking similar episodes of corruption and wrongdoing in the future.”
The Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the legislation earlier this year, but it has not yet been scheduled for a committee markup.
Concerns over the UAW probe come as thousands of workers represented by the union have walked off the job at General Motors plants nationwide. The automaker and the union have been unable to reach an agreement on a new four-year contract.
According to POLITICO PRO, former United Automobile Workers Vice President Norwood Jewell was sentenced to 15 months in prison today after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from Fiat Chrysler executives.
Jewell is the eighth person to be sentenced in connection to a scheme to funnel millions of training-center dollars to lavish spoils such as cigars, expensive meals, airline tickets, alcohol and even a Ferrari.
One night in 2015, Jewell spent nearly $7,000 on dinner for UAW executives at Detroit’s London Chop House, according to prosecutors. He also used training-center funds to pay for 29 rounds of golf in Palm Springs, Calif., rent a three bedroom villa with a private pool and hot tub, and purchase $2,000 of tickets to Disney World and Universal Studios theme parks.
“The defendant was a top official in the UAW Chrysler Department who betrayed his position. He was a leader. He violated the trust,” said federal District Judge Paul Borman, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Borman, however, rejected prosecutors’ request for a $95,000 fine, noting that Jewell has a negative net worth.
Jewell, in addressing the judge, said he was proud of his 30-year career as a union representative and asserted that he “never compromised the collective bargaining process,” according to the Free Press. He said he was remorseful for the shadow he had cast “on myself and the union that I love.”
The United Automobile Workers today refiled for a union election at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant hours after the National Labor Relations Board denied an earlier petition on procedural grounds.
“This afternoon, as soon it was able to do so, the UAW immediately filed a new petition, again seeking a vote among Chattanooga production and maintenance workers,” a UAW spokesperson said in a written statement.
The NLRB said it dismissed the earlier petition because it conflicted with a still-pending previous UAW effort to organize only maintenance workers at the plant. The UAW last month moved to withdraw its bid to organize that subgroup.
The NLRB today said that the union may seek a new election — one that would cover virtually all employees at the plant — by starting the process over again. The decision fell along party lines, with Republican member William Emanuel recused.
“Our dismissal of the petition is without prejudice to the petitioner’s right to immediately file a new petition,” the board wrote, “and any delay is solely due to its having filed its petition during the certification year.”
It’s unclear whether the NLRB’s Republican majority will pose future barriers to the unionization effort, or whether employees at the plant will agree to it. If approved, it would be the Chattanooga plant’s third vote in five years on whether to unionize.