United Auto Workers President Gary Jones survived an attempt to remove him from the office during a high-level meeting Friday, one day after he became involved in a scheme to oust union money.
"The meeting is over," UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg confirmed. "There are no changes. Gary Jones is the president of the union."
But it was unclear Friday how long Jones would remain in office amid rising pressure from the UAW, local unions across the country and the expanded federal anti-corruption investigation.
The door to the UAW International Executive Board at the Westin Detroit Metropolitan Hotel, according to four sources familiar with the situation, was the first public indication that Jones may not survive the scandal which has already produced nine beliefs and embraced several eras of top UAW leaders.
The sources said that a fraction of the federal government appears to be pushing to remove Jones, to preserve the federation's autonomy and to prevent a potential takeover by the UAW.
On Friday afternoon, two board members, Region 1 Director Frank Stuglin and Region 1A Director Chuck Browning, were spotted entering Westin Airport after a break. After the meeting broke down, Jones & # 39; s driver and others physically blocked an Associated Press reporter from trying to contact him to ask questions.
The board of 14 members – composed of the union's regional directors, three vice presidents, secretary-treasurer and president – is the federation's governing body. It has the power to initiate a lawsuit against officers with the potential to reprimand, suspend or remove them, pursuant to Article 30, Sections 1 and 13 of the UAW Constitution.
"I think there is a sense that even though he is innocent, they will not have an incumbent president to address," said Erik Gordon, a University professor at the University of Michigan. "It should be pretty clear that the government is following him. How high will the government go or think they can go? Jones. That's how loud. ”
The meeting came about 32 hours before the union's contract deadline with General Motors Co., its target company, which is set to expire Saturday night, potentially sending 46,000 workers per hour to the picket line. The extended criminal investigation, characterized by the August 28 attack on the homes of Jones and former President Dennis Williams, arguably complicates the most consequential negotiations since the bankruptcy of ten Detroit automakers ten years ago.
One day after a federal criminal complaint and statement, UAW executives implicated Jones and Williams in an expanded corruption conspiracy that disguised more than $ 1 million membership fees at Palm Springs Villas, steakhouse dinners, more than 100 rounds of golf, cigars and $ 400 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne. [19659003ImellomtidenharforhandlingenemedGMavtatttilenvirtuellstillhetifølgeenkildesomerkjentmedsituasjonenettersomforhandlingslagfrabeggesiderventerpåålæreresultatenefraUAWsledermøteFagforbundetinnvilgetkontraktforlengelsertilFordMotorCoogFiatChryslerAutomobilesNVfredagforåretteoppmerksomhetenmotGMblantutdypendeuro
"Having significantly corrupt people that drive connected, does nothing to keep the union relevant," said Chris Vitale, 46, a 25-year veteran UAW member who tests vehicles at Fiat Chrysler Auburn Hills headquarters . "I despise what they have done. Honestly, the federal government is involved in cleaning up the (international) union and authorizing every check that is written, that the union is not clean."
Increasingly senior officers, UAW members and leaders worry about the impact the ongoing federal investigation will have on negotiations and details of the next four-year contract.
Members are anxious about the future of their plants, job security, salary increases, health care maintenance. Their concern for the investigation was further extended this week after Detroit News confirmed that Jones is a named union accused in a criminal case for helping orchestrate a years-long conspiracy involving the membership dues.
"It destroys the integrity of our organization and what we are about. In some ways, it does not weaken our negotiating power, but it weakens the loyalty and trust we need from membership," said Rich LeTourneau, store manager for Local 2209, which represents around 4,000 members at GM's assembly plant in Fort Wayne.
Nine people – including five union leaders and the wife of a deceased vice president – have been convicted in corruption investigations focusing on how executives used car-produced training center accounts and paid money that members have contributed.
UAW Region 5 director Vance Pearson was indicted on Thursday for union funds, mail and wire fraud and money laundering, and Pearson was involved in a long-standing dispute spiration alleged to have enchanted Jones and Williams. Neither Jones nor Williams are charged.
Excluding an extension that is not likely to be granted until Saturday afternoon at the earliest, the federation's contract with GM expires at 11:59. Saturday. Obtaining a preliminary agreement would only begin: leaders would need to have the agreement ratified by a member affected by the federal investigation.
"The ratification should be tough even if this did not happen," said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Ann Arbor-based Center for Car Research. "Members decide whether or not this is a good deal."
LeTourneau in Fort Wayne thinks his membership will not let corruption investigations affect their decision on a contract – if it is good. But he says "in the long run they will want retaliation as a result of these issues. International representatives should behave to a much higher standard."
In a statement posted on Facebook, UAW Local 249 President Jason Starr and Negotiation Chairman Jim Fisher – based in Pleasant Valley, Missouri, part of the region 5 once led by Jones – wrote that they believe all the accused are innocent until they is proven guilty. But those who are proven to have violated the UAW Constitution "should be punished to the fullest extent by law."
"The damage these corrupt officials have caused to our trade union reputation is devastating," they wrote. "It has negatively affected critical organization runs, and it causes distrust just like the deadline for the Detroit Three contract negotiations."
Matt Moorhead did not want to leave his homeland Howland in northeastern Ohio, but the 47-year-old former GM Lordstown Assembly employee saw no other opportunity after he signed the check to pay for his son's college tuition. He knew he had to accept a transfer to the Grand River Assembly in Lansing, leaving his wife, son and daughter back in Ohio.
"The contract that was signed with me, I feel, was broken," he said. "I was still going to work in Lordstown. A lot is being expelled from our families, and that's not right. It's not the way you treat people who are overstating."
The Lordstown Assembly Plant is one of four US plants GM will move to close. But union leaders have said they plan to fight to get product to the affected plants.
In addition to securing jobs and more product, workers will also see a pay system that makes everyone equal. A GM worker with less than one year's experience earns $ 45,470 in total wages and bonuses, and a seven- to eight-year worker earns $ 99,363, under the UAW / GM 2015 contract.
"I'd like to see them take everyone to the first level and get rid of all the levels," said Terry Simms, 57, a GM Flint Assembly Plant worker. "Get rid of the levels. You can't have solidarity if you have a house divided and our house is divided."
Ready to strike
Members say they are ready to strike if necessary to get what they are fighting for, but are also concerned about how a strike will affect them financially.
"I always tell them, and I've told them for a year: & # 39; Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best, & # 39; said Randy Freeman, Local 652 president who represents workers at the Grand River "No one wins on strike."
Local UAW leaders prepare for a strike – from assembling tents and first aid equipment to the fence to making food available in the union hall as workers prepare to live off the strike pay of $ 250 a week The union raised $ 50 in a special event in March.
Hundreds of UAW employees and members put together signs and make other preparations for Local 2209 in Roanoke, Indiana, where GM's Fort Wayne Assembly plans produce GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickup.
"They are ready and ready to go on strike if that happens," LeTourneau said.
Many of his members "expect a strike. They want out. Hopefully it can change the way management treats people. They have a whole new attitude about how they treat people. It is as if they lost sight of people being their most important resource. ”
LeTourneau speculated that his facility could be a strike target. The trader Silverado and Sierra's stock at dealerships is 93 and 84 days respectively above a 64-day industry average for trucks, according to Cox Automotive.
"This would be a very critical facility," he said, "to take down right now."
Staff Author Breana Noble contributed.
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