Dennis Williams says UAW will weather latest storm
Dennis Williams: “Over the last several months, we have been under a magnifying glass, and rightfully so.” Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
DETROIT — As part of a continuing internal investigation, the UAW is taking action against union members found to have been involved in the misuse of millions of dollars in training funds.
President Dennis Williams said the union has terminated several people for their ties to the alleged wrongdoing, which is at the center of a widening federal investigation into training centers operated by the UAW and Detroit automakers.
“We will never tolerate this type of misconduct,” Williams said in a briefing here last week. “Based on the information we have, we believe several former UAW officials acted in a clear violation of UAW policy. This is not acceptable, and the actions of a few individuals should not be held against the entire union and its membership.”
Other UAW members allegedly involved are believed to have retired from the union.
Overall, Williams said, the UAW is “in good shape” with increasing membership, record profit-sharing checks for members and successful collective bargaining with the Detroit 3.
“The UAW has weathered many storms over the years, been through bad economic times, long strikes, relentless and vicious organizing drives,” he said. “We have also at times withstood investigations that have tested our good will.”
Williams said the union will survive this test as well, and he expects little backlash from members during the union’s Constitutional Convention in June, when his expected successor, Gary Jones, and a slate of new leaders will stand for election.
Four people — split between FCA US and the UAW — have been charged in the training funds case, while several others have been chargedas part of plea deals or an initial federal indictment made public in July. Federal officials say $4.5 million in training center funds was diverted to union and company officials through the use of credit cards, charities and other means.
The federal investigation initially focused on funds at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, a site operated jointly by the union and FCA, and has since expanded to other operations.
General Motors and Ford Motor Co. said in November they were cooperating with federal investigators who have subpoenaed information about jointly operated training centers with the UAW, which are funded by automakers.
Williams said federal officials haven’t interviewed him regarding their probe. The union, he said, continues to cooperate with federal officials handling the investigation.
“Over the last several months, we have been under a magnifying glass, and rightfully so,” Williams said.
He declined to comment further, citing the ongoing federal probe and an internal UAW investigation.
Federal officials have identified at least one charity connected to union and FCA officials that was allegedly used to siphon money out of the FCA training center.
They’re now examining personal charities run by other high-ranking UAW officials.
It’s not uncommon for UAW leaders and even regional directors to establish charities. Williams said such organizations have been a “practice of the UAW for a long, long time.”
He said his Williams Charity Fund, which focuses on helping children and homeless people, ceased taking donations this year, citing his planned retirement next summer.
Jones, who was chosen by union leaders as Williams’ expected successor, established a charity called the 5 Game Changers Charity Fund. It hasn’t disclosed assets or revenue.
Jones is an unconventional candidate to succeed Williams. Historically, the union’s top post has been filled by a vice president or secretary-treasurer. Jones is a UAW regional director in Kansas City., Mo., and a certified public accountant,
Jones was chosen, Williams said, based on his “strong background” with the union, including his accounting experience.
“We feel very confident that Gary will do a fantastic job,” he said. “Gary’s a good candidate. It was a thoughtful process.”
Williams said ‘s decision not to seek re-election was voluntary.
“I concur with his decision, and I wish him well,” he said.
Jewell, 60, hasn’t been publicly named or charged in the federal investigation. The Detroit News reported in August that he received a $2,180 shotgun bought with union training center funds as a birthday gift. The UAW has said Jewell paid for the gun after finding out it was bought with the training funds.