As if a corruption scandal wasn’t bad enough, the United Auto Workers (UAW) is now facing allegations of sexual harassment against UAW executive board member and regional director Richard Rankin.Two female staff members claim Rankin “repeatedly made sexually charged remarks that in one instance escalated to a physical threat.” The women claim the harassment began in 2015, and that their attempts to report it resulted in retaliation against them by Rankin. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time an employee has accused a UAW official of sexual harassment. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed from 2018, a female worker detailed a history of abuse and sexual harassment at Ford’s Chicago plant. When she attempted to report the harassment, she said she faced retaliation from the UAW. She claimed her union representative tried to run her off the road, slashed her car tires, and came to her house to harass her. In response to the current accusations against Rankin, the UAW has launched an “independent” investigation. The union hired Washington, DC-based law firm Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC to look into the allegations. But how “independent” can the law firm running the investigation be? In 2018, the union paid the firm over $1 million. And that was just over the course of one year. According to LM-2 data from the Department of Labor, the law firm has received almost $2 million from the UAW since 2015. Far from being independent, it seems the firm and the union have been in business together for quite some time. The firm itself seems to be the go-to choice for major unions looking for legal help — it’s currently litigating on behalf of the AFL-CIO on a separate issue.
With former union president Gary Jones set to be the 14th official convicted in the corruption scandal at the union, and now a high level sexual harassment investigation under way, it doesn’t seem like things are turning around at the UAW any time soon.