The ongoing federal probe into corruption in the ranks of the United Auto Workers (UAW) has taken down yet another union leader. Former UAW President Dennis Williams is set to plea guilty to his role in the union’s spending scandal at the end of the month.
The indictment comes just a few months after another former union president Gary Jones’ own guilty plea. That’s right, Williams will be the second former UAW president to plead guilty to taking part in the wide-scale scheme to embezzle members’ dues money. Nine other high-ranking union officials have already been convicted. Overall, Williams is the 15th person to be charged in the federal investigation into wrongdoing at the union.
The probe unearthed a long-standing scheme to funnel union funds to pay for luxury expenses, including “private villas, high-end liquor and meal expenses, golfing apparel, golf clubs and green fees.” Jones even spent $13,000 on cigars, and that was just in one instance. Other outrageous expenses included spa treatments for spouses, horseback riding on the beach, and sunglasses according to U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider.
Williams himself is charged with conspiring with six other union leaders to embezzle members’ dues. During the investigation, a luxury cabin was built for him at the UAW’s Black Lake resort. The cabin, which was built partly with the use of non-union labor, was officially taken back from Williams last year. The union was also paying Williams’ legal fees up until earlier this year, and has most recently forced the former president to pay back $56,000 in personal travel and lodging expenses. Now, Williams could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
In addition to a long-lasting black mark on the union’s record, the investigation could result in a decade-long period of government oversight at the UAW. Despite all this, presidential candidate Joe Biden still made a campaign appearance at the UAW Region 1 headquarters in Michigan last week. The UAW International Executive Board Vice President Gerald Kariem was also present at the event, just months after a federal lawsuit accused him of sexual harassment.
But, try as it might, the UAW can’t hide from its past. This latest conviction will probably discourage already-outraged auto workers from sticking with a union that has betrayed its own members.