DETROIT – The head of the UAW’s scandal-ridden Chrysler Dept. is stepping down at the end of the year and a replacement for Norwood Jewell will be named in 2018, union President Dennis Williams says.
Williams told reporters at UAW headquarters Wednesday that Jewell, 60, told him he had decided to retire effective Dec. 31.
Jewell was passed over when the UAW’s so-called administrative caucus drew up its election slate for the union’s top officers at its constitutional convention in June.
Jewell, who has not made any public comment on his situation, has been caught in the unfolding scandal surrounding the joint fund set up by the UAW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for training workers in areas such on-the-job safety and the use of new technology.
A federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted Alphons Iacobelli, former FCA vice president of labor relations, on charges of siphoning off more than $1 million in funds from the FCA-UAW National Training Center for his personal use at the same time he was using another $1.2 million in training-fund money to influence key UAW officials over a 6-year period from 2009 to 2015.
Also indicted was Monica Morgan, whose husband, the late General Holiefield, was a former UAW vice president and head of the UAW’s Chrysler Dept.
Virdell King, a former deputy director of the union’s Chrysler Dept., pleaded guilty in August to one felony count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act. Under a plea agreement, she faces up to 16 months in prison and restitution payments of up to $15,000. She faces sentencing Jan. 3.
Williams says anyone who had access to a credit card paid for by the National Training Center while it was supervised by Holiefield and King has been removed from the UAW staff. “I can’t talk about specifics, but we have zero tolerance,” he says, adding, “No dues money was involved.”
Jewell has not been charged in the embezzlement case. But before the scandal exploded into public view, he had accepted from the FCA training staff a birthday gift, a shotgun valued at more than $2,000 that was paid for out of the joint training funds. Jewell returned the shotgun when he discovered the source of the money for the gift.
Williams, while publicly admitting for the first time that Holiefield allied too closely with FCA executives, insisted the union’s bargaining process never was compromised by the corruption case.
Williams also said the UAW has formed a team of outside lawyers to conduct an independent investigation of what happened at the NTC. “I’ve never had so many lawyers,” said the union president, who told WardsAuto he intends for the report or at least parts of it to be made public.
The scandal undoubtedly hurt the union’s organizing efforts at Nissan in Canton, MS, in August and last month at Fuyao Glass in Dayton, OH, Williams conceded.
On another topic, Williams said the union objects to Ford’s decision to produce electric vehicles in Mexico.
“I’m not happy with Ford. I think we’re missing a huge opportunity in this country,” Williams said, adding the U.S. is not investing enough in the new technologies and science needed to compete effectively with European and Asian countries.
Williams also said he believes that the Trump Admin.’s efforts to revise NAFTA will fail unless something is done to raise Mexican workers’ wages.
Negotiators are “focused on rules of origin and all that,” he said. “But one thing you have to demand is a different standard of living for Mexican workers. General Motors, Ford, FCA, Nissan and Toyota could set an example by (raising) their wages. You don't need any changes in NAFTA for them to do that.”