As the federal investigation into corruption in the ranks of the United Auto Workers (UAW) continues, former union vice president Norwell Jewell will join three other high-ranking union officials behind bars. While Jewell’s union pals will serve one year, he’s been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
Jewell was part of a large scale conspiracy to funnel $4.5 million intended for the UAW’s National Training Center into his own pocket and the pockets of other union officials. Jewell himself received almost $100,000 worth of gifts and bribes—including $8,927 for a villa in Palm Springs, a $2,182 shotgun, and $25,065 on a party that featured wine bottles with Jewell’s name on the label.
Even Jewell’s defense struggled to dispute the damning evidence, settling instead on painting a picture of Jewell as a “negligent dope” who was “asleep at the switch”—an amusing but unconvincing last-ditch effort.
As U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider has stated, “It’s an ongoing investigation and we’re not done.” There’s another probe into whether or not union officials made deals with “swag” companies to receive kickbacks on purchases made for union-branded items. There’s also been allegations that union leaders kept the cash intended for the UAW’s so-called “flower funds”—funds set up to collect money to buy flowers for the funerals of union members.
With this type of publicity, it’s no wonder workers are leaving the UAW in droves. Last year, the union saw its largest drop in membership since the Great Recession. Even its latest attempt to unionize a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee was met with failure as auto workers likely found it hard to see past the union’s bad reputation.
At his sentencing, Jewell told the court, “I stand before you a very humbled man.” Humility apparently has a different definition in Jewell’s book. Maybe that will change for him during his time in federal prison.