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UAW President Fain is under investigation by a federal court watchdog

UAW President Fain is under investigation by a federal court watchdog

Detroit — United Auto Workers President Sean Fine is under investigation by a court-appointed watchdog tasked with rooting out corruption, according to a federal court filing, one of a series of probes targeting the scandal-plagued union’s top leaders.

The watchdog agency, Superintendent Neil Barofsky, unveiled the investigation Monday while accusing union leaders of obstructing and interfering with attempts to access information, actions that could amount to a clear violation of a 2020 consent decree that prevented a broad takeover of the UAW by the UAW. Department of Justice.

In a federal court filing, Barofsky described the erosion of cooperation by union leaders in February after he revealed investigations targeting members of the UAW’s ruling international executive board, including Fine, Treasurer Margaret Mock and one of the union’s unnamed regional directors. In the documents.

Barofsky said he was investigating a fight between Fine and Mock, who accused the union president of removing her authority in retaliation for her refusal or reluctance to allow money to be spent on Fine’s office, according to the filing.

The monitor also revealed that he was investigating whether Fine retaliated against a UAW vice president. Separately, Barofsky said he opened an unrelated investigation in April into a regional director after receiving allegations of possible embezzlement.

“With more than three months having passed since the start of the comptroller’s investigation, and only a small portion of the requested documents having been submitted, the comptroller’s assessment is that the union’s delay in submitting the relevant documents hinders and interferes with his access to information necessary for his work,” Barofsky wrote. “Left unaddressed, it is a clear violation of the consent decree.”

The investigation does not appear to include criminal charges. However, Barofsky has the power to bring charges seeking to discipline, remove, suspend, expel and fine UAW officers and members.

“At this point, it is important to stress that these allegations are just allegations,” Barofsky wrote. “It proves nothing in and of itself, and nothing in this report should be construed as reaching any conclusion about possible charges, if any, for suspected misconduct.”

The court filing represents the continuing fallout from a high-profile scandal that ended with the UAW subject to years of federal oversight in 2020 and sent more than a dozen people to prison. This includes Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives and two former UAW presidents, Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. UAW labor leaders were convicted of a pattern of corruption that included breaking federal labor laws, stealing union funds, and receiving bribes, kickbacks, and illegal benefits from contractors and auto industry executives.

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“Taking our union in a new direction sometimes means you have to rock the boat, and that upsets some people who want to maintain the status quo, but our membership expects better and deserves better than old business as usual,” Fine said in a statement. statement.

“We encourage the Controller to investigate any allegations brought to his office, because we know what they will find: UAW leadership committed to serving members, and running a democratic union. We remain focused on winning record contracts, growing our union, and fighting for economic and social justice on and off the job.” .

Mok declined to comment on the comptroller’s investigation and its results.

“If the government takes over the union, Sean Fine will quickly become one of the leaders most hated by the grassroots,” said Eric Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Barofsky has the support of the Department of Justice. The union’s position makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the superintendent to eliminate fraud, corruption, and illegality from within the UAW, prosecutors wrote to him.

“It is noteworthy that the union treasurer has also disavowed the union’s current position as uncooperative and inconsistent with its own directives for union employees to cooperate fully,” Barofsky wrote.

The controller wrote that he tried for months to gather information for a full investigation “but the union effectively slowed the controller’s access to requested documents.”

Barofsky wrote that union leaders produced a “very small” portion of the documents, about 2,600 out of more than 116,000 records. Most of these records were shared after receiving a scathing draft report submitted to the court last week.

“There was a similar lack of production related to the Observatory’s embezzlement investigations into one of the union’s regional directors,” Barofsky wrote. There are no additional details about the alleged embezzlement.

Barofsky describes a shift in the level of cooperation from UAW leaders. Last December, before the investigation began, Fine asked his subordinates to answer the monitor’s questions “without hesitation” and pledged to share information.

However, that position has changed, Barofsky wrote: “The union’s arguments for delaying, and perhaps denying, the controller’s access to documents represent a shift in its position on cooperation.”

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Gordon said the allegations about UAW leaders being uncooperative are not surprising: “Finn is one of those guys who will fight anyone in the room. That’s kind of Shaun Fine’s approach to life.”

Gordon added: “I’m not sure how angry members will be about non-co-operation unless non-co-operation results in the government taking control of the union, but if there is talk of continued corruption, Finn could be a one-term president.”

In his campaign and administration, Fein emphasized how directly elected leadership could clean up the union. He emphasized transparency in the Detroit Three automakers’ public bidding decisions during contract negotiations last fall.

“Fine has been extraordinarily transparent so far,” said Harley Chaiken, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley who specializes in labor and the global economy. “There is an unambiguous ethos in the union about involving members in what the union does. The controller clearly has concerns, but he does not communicate those concerns in any detail.

However, the report indicates a problem within the union regarding how it manages its internal operations and ensures it responds to these types of requests in a timely manner, said Marek Masters, professor emeritus of management at Wayne State University.

“It’s a bad look,” he said. “It points to a general administrative problem, which is understandable given the newness of the officials and the volume of dealing with them, the comptroller and his policy recommendations, and the promises they have made of transparency. And with all the activities they have been involved in — strikes, contracts outside the Big Three and organizing efforts — “It may be too much for them to handle.”

After securing registration contracts with the three Detroit automakers, the UAW announced a $40 million organizing campaign at non-union auto and battery plants. Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee voted to organize with the UAW, but Mercedes-Benz Group employees in Alabama rejected a union election last month.

“Those would be red flags,” Masters said regarding how potential UAW members view the situation. “They’ll say they don’t seem to have their act together. There’s concern about whether they can handle their business properly.”

Barofsky also revealed disciplinary steps taken against several high-level officials associated with Williams and the UAW’s past. Among them is Amy Loaching, Williams’ former administrative assistant. The monitor concluded that Loasching participated in an embezzlement scheme involving senior UAW officials.

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“The monitor found evidence that UAW officials improperly authorized and accepted the disbursement of approximately $25,000 in UAW funds for Loasching’s personal benefit, including housing, golf outings, clothing, and meals,” Barofsky wrote.

It also alleges that Loasching improperly directed UAW maintenance employees to work in its condominium while they were on union time. Barofsky tried to interrogate Loaching. Instead, she resigned, prompting the superintendent to expel her from the union on June 6.

Loasching has been under scrutiny since FBI agents raided her Wisconsin home in August 2019. The search was part of a nationwide series of raids targeting UAW officials and included searches at the homes of Jones and Williams and the union’s Black Lake resort in northern Michigan.

Loasching has not been charged with a crime.

The report comes after Fain last month fired UAW Vice President Rich Boyer as head of the Stellantis division. Finn issued a memo asserting that the action was due to a “dereliction of duty” by Boyer regarding certain collective bargaining issues, according to the comptroller’s report. Boyer said it was about refusing to remove an employee.

“There is concern about whether the union is effectively representing workers in relation to the action taken with Boyer at Stellantis,” Masters said. “With the regional director alleging embezzlement, they are suggesting improper financial management. All of these things only serve to revive the remnants of the scandal in which the UAW was involved.”

In February, the International Executive Board removed Mok from overseeing several departments, including the ITU Women’s Division and the Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department.

Mook allegedly “improperly denied” requests for reimbursement, regulation of strike-related efforts and costs, according to the All Workers Union for Democracy Caucus, which endorsed Mook in the 2023 election and said it was citing a report by the UAW’s compliance director. Additionally, it alleged that Mok withheld approval of routine expenses in an effort to gain IEB votes.

Mock defended her actions in a statement, saying she was committed to the policies of her role.

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