UAW struggles to reset, root out corruption, monitor says in harsh report

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The UAW’s court-appointed monitor on Tuesday said union leaders have been so uncooperative in efforts to root out corruption — including in 19 open investigations — that Department of Justice officials in March were called in to intervene over potential violations of the union‘s consent decree.

A new report by the office of Montior Neil Barofsky revealed not only an increase in open investigations, previously at 15, but described a months-long effort by the UAW to obstruct and interfere with its investigations during which union leaders allegedly concealed evidence and excluded the monitor’s office from key International Executive Board meetings.

Barofsky’s office in late March called a meeting with UAW President Ray Curry and U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison to discuss the problems, during which Curry was said to have committed to “a total reset” in relations with the monitor.

While the monitor’s office says it has seen some improvement in transparency since March, the report painted a harsh view of a troubled union that has been slow to respond to systemic corruption that reached its highest levels. It could also serve as a black eye for incumbent leaders, including Curry, who meet before delegates next week in a constitutional convention, where they are expected to seek nominations for new terms.

“Although there are positive changes in the union’s cooperation and transparency with the monitor, given the amount of work still ahead, it is still too soon to fully assess the union’s progress in carrying out the reforms it must enact to sustain much needed cultural change,” the report said. “To its credit, the union has drafted a new code of conduct and anti-bribery policy, conducted ethics and compliance trainings, and started to use formal job descriptions, job postings, and competitive hiring processes — all of which will address the vestiges of the ‘toxic’ culture described in the monitor’s Initial Status Report. Yet, in many ways, the recent improvement in transparency and collaboration from the UAW has revealed the great distance the UAW has yet to cover in order to implement the recommendations in the Initial Status Report.”

Spokesperson Sandra Engle, responding to the latest report, said the union remains committed to rebuilding trust, creating robust reforms and transforming its culture.

“We have proven that with a myriad of already implemented changes to policies and the creation of processes that ensure accountability,” she said Tuesday. “The report is lengthy and documents a sometimes-difficult process, but it ends on a note that we are on the right path.”

Engle noted the monitor has renewed his “optimism that the union has turned a corner in its commitment to the monitorship,” and said the union “will continue to balance the urgent need to create necessary reforms with the equally urgent mandate to bargain equitable contracts and fight for public policies that protect members and their families.”

The report revealed for the first time the name of another union official linked to an ongoing corruption probe. According to the monitor’s office, it recently entered into an agreement with former Region 5 Assistant Director Danny Trull not to contest allegations about his participation in an embezzlement scheme.

Trull, former deputy to Ex-UAW President Gary Jones — who is currently serving a 28-month prison term for embezzlement — was first linked to the probe by The Detroit News in 2019.

In addition to 19 open investigations, the monitor’s office says it is working with the UAW on 38 recommended reforms. It says the union has been cooperative in the talks, noting it has engaged a new internal audit service provider, implemented new financial controls around vendor relationships and provided additional resources for IT system upgrades.

The report also revealed the UAW had used union resources to buy about 1,500 personalized backpacks with the name and title of an IEB member who is currently running for IEB office, which it believes could have violated the Labor-Management Reporting & Disclosure Act of 1959. The monitor’s office also learned of “significant expenditures at conferences that were made with inadequate oversight or policy controls.”

In each instance, the monitor’s office recommended a policy change which the union has since implemented.

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