Job one for acting United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble is rooting out rot in the union to steer clear of federal oversight.
Gamble took over leadership of the country’s largest auto labor group on an interim basis on Saturday when his predecessor stepped aside amid a Justice Department probe that has metastasized over the past two years into a major scandal. Prosecutors have charged several and convicted some senior UAW officials with a series of crimes ranging from embezzlement to wire fraud.
That has raises the specter of a government takeover much like the federal supervision consent decree by the Teamsters union 30 years ago to settle a corruption and racketeering case and which was just lifted in 2015.
In an interview at the union’s temporary headquarters outside Detroit, Gamble said he has a list of new controls designed to clean house at the UAW and, if possible, avoid the fate of the Teamsters. “At this point, we have to be cognizant of that, but we still have a union to protect and maintain. I’m truly praying that we don’t have to go down that road,” he said.
Gamble has been tapped to fill in for Gary Jones, who went on an indefinite leave of absence Saturday after being implicated in a federal probe that has shadowed his tenure as union head and which dates back at least six months before his December 2017 nomination. Jones has not been charged with a crime, but is a co-conspirator in an embezzlement case and identified in court filings as “UAW Official A,” the Detroit News reported last week, citing unnamed people familiar with the investigation.
The union faces corruption probes for at least three separate incidents, including a kickback scheme allegedly involving former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, who served on the board of General Motors Co. He was charged Wednesday by federal prosecutors.
In September, Jones was associated with charges against another union official who allegedly conspired to use union funds for luxury rental villas in Palm Springs, as well as more than $1 million worth of golf clubs, gourmet meals, cigars and high-end liquor.
Attorneys for Ashton and Jones were unavailable for comment.
Welch and Dawson write for Bloomberg.