“There was a culture of corruption in the senior leadership of the United Auto Workers union.”

Multiple high-ranking union officials pleaded guilty to enriching themselves at the expense of workers. That’s just the start of the UAW’s troubles.

Corrupt Leadership

Leaders at the United Auto Workers (UAW) conspired with officials at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to funnel over $4.5 million intended for the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC) to union leaders. Four senior officers at the UAW have been convicted, while former UAW President Dennis Williams remains implicated in the scandal. Most recently, the investigation has focused on whether current and former UAW execs received kickbacks on swag purchased with members’ dues.

In the sentencing memo for one of the defendants, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey wrote that “there was a culture of corruption in the senior leadership of the United Auto Workers union” and that the officials took payments from Fiat Chrysler “for their own personal benefit, for the benefit of the union itself, and for their own lavish entertainment.”

A total of seven convictions have been made in an ongoing federal investigation. The union has spent over $1.5 million of members’ dues money to defend itself in the investigation.

Norwood Jewell

Conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act
Jewell, former UAW International Vice President in the UAW Chrysler Department and Director of the UAW-Chrysler NTC, pleaded guilty to joining a conspiracy whereby he received money and things of value from persons acting in the interest of FCA and/or approved UAW officials to use their NTC credit cards to make over $40,000 in purchases for himself, senior UAW officials, and other UAW members.

Nancy Adams Johnson

Conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act
Johnson, a former senior official in the Chrysler Department of the UAW, pleaded guilty to receiving over $45,000. According to federal prosecutors, the cash was spent on designer shoes, travel, golf resorts and lavish meals. Johnson was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day in prison and 12 months of supervised release. She was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Keith Mickens

Conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act
Mickens, a former senior official in the Chrysler Department of the UAW, pleaded guilty to receiving over $7,700. He also received a check for $13,500 that was used by the late-UAW Vice President General Holiefield to pay for a swimming pool at his home. Mickens received purchases of luggage, electronics, clothing, and other golf equipment. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison and 12 months of supervised release.  He was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Virdell King

Conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act
King, a former senior official in the Chrysler Department of the UAW and former assistant director for the UAW-Chrysler NTC, pleaded guilty to receiving over $40,000, including luggage, electronics, clothing, and other golf equipment. She was sentenced to two months in prison and 12 months of supervised release.  She was ordered to pay a $5,500 fine.

Dennis Williams

Implicated in scandal, not charged
Former President of the UAW Dennis Williams has been implicated in this corruption scandal. According to the Detroit News, former union official Nancy Adams Johnson claimed Williams “told senior officials to use automakers’ funds to pay for union costs, including lavish meals [and] travel.”
“This positions the union not as the workers' friend but as a big powerful thing that would extort money from its own members.”
University of Michigan business professor

Lavish Lifestyles

UAW officials are known for their expensive taste. While it may not always put them behind bars, union members may be shocked to see how the union leadership is spending at least part of their dues.

From upscale restaurants to expensive hotel stays, here’s just a few examples of the UAW’s spending habits between 2013-2018:

  • Over $1 million on entertainment, including bars and casinos, professional sporting events, parties and liquor stores;
  • Over $43 million on lavish stays at hotels and resorts;
  • Over $12 million on travel including private jets, plane tickets, limousines and boat rentals;
  • Almost $4 million on nicer restaurants, bar tabs, and catering.

While its officials were under investigation for fraud and embezzlement, the UAW constructed a 1,885-square-foot cabin for former president Dennis Williams (who has been implicated in the scandal with Fiat Chrysler) using interest from the union’s $721 million strike fund, which is bankrolled by worker dues. Hypocritically, the cabin was built with the help of non-union labor in an effort to save money.

Cabin built for former UAW president Dennis Williams.
“Why am I paying union dues when the UAW won’t even protect me from sexual harassment?”
Tonya Exum, production team member at Ford’s Chicago Stamping Plant

Member Neglect

The New York Times reported on rampant sexual misconduct at Ford’s Chicago plant–enabled and sometimes committed by UAW representatives. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed, one worker detailed a history of abuse and sexual harassment. When she attempted to report the abuse, she was threatened by her own union representative who allegedly tried to run her off the road, slashed her car tires, and came to her house to harass her.

These aren’t isolated cases. For instance, a female worker in Indianapolis claimed that her attempt to report sexual harassment at her workplace resulted in over a decade of harassment from the UAW. She was allegedly denied promotions, raises, and access to meetings and was eventually fired.

This year, eight workers filed a lawsuit against the Toledo Powertrain plant alleging widespread discrimination. The UAW local president Dennis Earl denied their claims and had this to say about accusations of racism at the plant: “Do I believe people are a little too sensitive these days? Absolutely.”

UAW membership declined drastically in 2018. Perhaps a culture where the interests of union leadership are prioritized over the well-being of members has something to do with it.


“The message they have sent to their membership is we're willing to sell out union members whenever we need to cut down our costs.”
Peter Henning, Wayne State University law professor

Plant Closures

Dozens of auto plants represented by the UAW have closed over the years, putting the livelihood of thousands of employees in jeopardy.


UAW Plant Closures: Interactive Map
“This organization cannot be reformed.”
Jerry White, World Socialist Web Site

Media

June 4, 2019

Video: Darren Fish Speaks Out

Darren Fish was an autoworker for 39 years. But in his time of need, he says the UAW in Spring Hill didn't have his back.
May 17, 2019

Video: A “Culture of Corruption”

UAW whistleblower speaks out: "You are truly endorsing and empowering people who do not have your best benefit in mind."
May 17, 2019

Full-Page Ad

An ad listing auto plant closures since 1971 and the number of jobs lost or workers displaced ran in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
April 29, 2019

Billboard Campaign Targets UAW Corruption

A series of billboards in Chattanooga, TN and Detroit, MI feature facts on the UAW's ongoing corruption investigation.
April 24, 2019

UAW Probe Focuses on Kickbacks

The FBI is investigating whether union execs received kickbacks on swag purchased with dues money.
April 23, 2019

Full-Page Ad

An ad describing the UAW's "culture of corruption" ran in three papers: The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, and The Chattanooga Times Free Press.
April 17, 2019

Video: My Fight Against the UAW

When Ginger Estes went up against the UAW, she saw the darkest side of the union
April 17, 2019

Workers should beware the UAW

Opinion Piece by Ginger Estes, employee at the NTN-Bower Corporation in Hamilton, Alabama.
May 9, 2018

Video: Get Smart on UAW Training Center Scam

Factory worker Ginger Estes recounts her fight with the UAW in vivid and emotional detail.
January 10, 2018

Video: A Culture of Harassment

These women in Chicago have seen first-hand how UAW reps have enabled predators in the workplace.