Thanksgiving is an all-American tradition, but nowhere will it be felt with such gratitude as it will at our German auto assembly center this week. You already know that in June the members of our Volkswagen Assembly Plant family came within a scant 1.8 percent of votes to be represented by the dreaded United Auto Workers union. You also know that less than two weeks ago VW announced an $800 million plant expansion in our community that will create another 1,000 new jobs. Yet just a shred of common sense will tell you had the union not been voted down by a chilling 833-776 vote, the decision to expand the body shop to 564,000 square feet and initiate electric vehicle production would most likely not have been in Hamilton County’s future.
What you don’t know is that since the VW workers’ vote in June, the UAW has been brutally exposed as a vile and corrupt organization that goes all the way to the top.
In an unprecedented federal probe, the union’s president, Gary Jones, his predecessor Dennis Williams, and an ever-growing herd of top UAW officials have either been accused or charged of severe alleged crimes. Already there have been 10 convictions and charges filed on 14. Some have already pleaded guilty and sent to prison, this despite $1.5 million paid by the UAW in legal fees. Three weeks ago Jones and Edward Robinson – who ran the Missouri region – were accused of embezzling approximately $1.5 million from union coffers. Vance Pearson, also a director of the Missouri region, has been on official leave due to his own Federal charges, and the word is that when Jones’ house was raided in August, over $32,000 in cash was confiscated.
Retired UAW Vice President Joe Ashton is expected to plead guilty next week. Once the union’s representative on the General Motors board, the 71-year old is charged with fraud and money-laundering conspiracies. The fraud charge is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison; money-laundering conspiracy is a 10-year felony.
Can you believe we came so close to snuggling up with this riffraff? According to news reports, Jones allegedly told Robinson his family would be taken care of if he would cop a guilty plea. Better yet, because of a conspiracy to embezzle union funds and defraud the United States, the Detroit News has reported that Robinson will indeed enter a guilty plea as soon as he can.
Two days ago the UAW announced Pearson would resign as not only the director of the UAW Region 5 – which includes 17 states – but (gasp!) give up his union membership. Pearson was charged in September of embezzling union funds, money laundering, and wire/mail fraud. Jones quite abruptly announced his resignation last week and, while neither he nor Williams have been charged, both have been under study.
Thus far there have been nine UAW leaders who have pleaded guilty. U.S. Department of Labor agent Andrew Donohue has said, “The investigation has also uncovered a multi-year conspiracy involving senior UAW officials embezzling, stealing and unlawfully and willfully abstracting and converting UAW funds to purchase luxury items and accommodations for their own personal benefit.”
Then there is this that should go on the VW plant’s billboard: Last week the Detroit News reported, “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) NV's late CEO Sergio Marchionne orchestrated a multi-million-dollar racketeering conspiracy — including bribes — that corrupted three rounds of bargaining with the United Auto Workers and harmed General Motors Co., according to a lawsuit filed in Detroit by GM. In the federal racketeering lawsuit against the Italian American automaker, GM says "clear admissions of wrongdoing" by FCA executives amid a continuing federal investigation into the union exposed a multi-year pattern of corruption that FCA used to cause GM "massive monetary damage."
How would you like to be in charge of the seating chart at the Thanksgiving table for this bunch of dandies?
Daniel Howes, a writer for the Detroit News, wrote a column last Thursday under the headline, ‘Embarrassed UAW scrambles for elusive courage in crisis.’ Howes’ article included, “The deposed union president (Jones) and his sidelined Region 5 sidekick, Vance Pearson, stand accused by their peers of submitting “false, misleading and inaccurate expense records,” as well as arranging a week's stay for Jones' daughter in a Palm Springs condo. Who knew?
“The UAW and its governing International Executive Board, evidently, content to stand by as evidence mounted against Jones, Pearson and former President Dennis Williams. Never mind that the union's bias for intransigence increases the prospects this sordid chapter in the UAW’s 84-year history will culminate in federal oversight,” wrote Howes. “Avoiding it will not be easy for a UAW whose reputation as a "clean" union is destroyed. If the past couple of years has demonstrated anything to federal officials on the outside looking in, it's that this cornerstone of the modern American auto industry is incapable of policing itself or its own, especially the big shooters on the executive board.”
Is it not a little scary that Volkswagen came within 57 votes of this catastrophe? Thankfully, 51.8 percent of the VW workers voted “no” in June. Had the UAW gotten its fangs in Hamilton County, I’m betting it would have cost our community far more than the just-announced $800 million expansion and 1,000 new jobs.
In 1979 the UAW had 1.5 million members but now has only a fourth of that. The Department of Labor reported a lost of 35,000 members just last year and it is anyone’s guess what this scandal will cost the UAW in the long term but with the charges so pervasive and its last two presidents under the microscope, a dues card would be tougher to sell than a used VW diesel.