Today in the Wall Street Journal, the Center for Union Facts calls out some flaws in the recent settlement agreement between the federal government and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.
The deal puts an end to a years-long investigation at the union that found “from 2009 to 2018…the union’s top leadership embezzled millions of dollars to fund lavish lifestyles, including resort stays, golf outings, top-shelf liquor and cigars.” Now, 15 high ranking union officials and automobile executives have been convicted.
The settlement calls for a court-appointed independent monitor to oversee the UAW for a six year time period. While the monitor won’t play a role in collective bargaining agreements, he or she will “have the power to investigate and discipline corrupt officials.” This oversight is a good first step to ensuring real reforms take root at the UAW — but it won’t come cheap.
Current UAW President Rory Gamble expects the monitorship will be a “costly” expense — one that will be covered by members’ dues. This weekend, CUF is running a full-page ad in the Chattanooga Times Free Press criticizing the UAW for having members help pay the union’s legal bills. The ad instructs current and potential union members to learn more about the union’s spending history at UAWInvestigation.com.
The settlement also hinges on a secret ballot referendum where union members will vote on whether to move to direct elections for union officials. As our op-ed states, “For 70 years, the union’s leaders were picked by influential insiders known as the Reuther Caucus and rubber-stamped by delegates at the union’s convention.” This referendum could put an end to the current status quo, and provide for “genuine democratic reform” at the union. Several union locals have even called for the union to hold a special convention as a means to instate direct elections and root out corruption.
However, President Gamble has not agreed to remain neutral during the upcoming vote. In fact, he’s spoken out against direct elections in the past. But, if the goal of this settlement is to accomplish true reform and accountability at the UAW, then the union has an obligation to remain neutral. After all, UAW officials spent years enriching themselves at the expense of rank-and-file members. Allowing workers an unbiased say in how the union recovers from this scandal is the least Gamble and his fellow officers can do.