Former UAW President Gary Jones faces 28 months in prison after admitting to stealing $1.5 million in union operating and political funds.
Jones’ sentencing by U.S. District Judge Paul Borman also leaves the UAW facing an internal tug-of-war between union members demanding reform of what they see as a corrupt system and the union’s old guard, which insists the scandal is an aberration and the current system has worked well over the years.
Jones will pay $550,000 restitution to the UAW and $42,000 in taxes owed to the IRS, and will forfeit $151,377, federal prosecutors say.
“June 10, 2021, marks the saddest day in the history of the UAW,” says a statement from UAWD (Unite All Workers for Democracy), a grass-roots movement campaigning for direct election of top officers.
Under the current system, which is under siege following the criminal conviction of a dozen key union officers, including two presidents and two vice presidents, top offices are filled at a convention dominated by incumbents.
“Never, in the history of the UAW, has a sitting UAW President been forced out of the highest office in our union because he performed corrupt acts against the membership he was entrusted to protect,” the UAWD statement says.
Jones, 64, served as UAW president from June 2018 until resigning in November. Borman in May sentenced Dennis Williams, who preceded Jones as union president, to 21 months in prison, levied a $10,000 fine and ordered him to make $132,000 in restitution to the UAW.
Williams (pictured, below left) and Jones were accused of embezzling union funds to support lavish lifestyles that
included extended stays at luxury resorts as well as meals, golf outings and expensive cigars and whiskey.
Williams’ endorsement was seen as a key to Jones winning the union presidency, but prosecutors say Jones gave them the information needed to file criminal charges against Williams.
Jones’ sentencing came seven months after prosecutors and the UAW reached a consent agreement under which an independent watchdog will oversee the union for six years.
“Former UAW Member and President Gary Jones’ sentencing today brings to a close a very dark chapter in UAW history,” the union says in a statement. “Jones clearly put his personal and self-interest above that of the members of his Union and has been stripped of his membership in the UAW.”
Nonetheless, pressure on the UAW’s leadership continues to build. They not only have to deal with a restless membership but also the independent monitor who is expected to impose new rules on the union’s internal political campaigns.
UAW President Rory Gamble, who negotiated the consent agreement, contends the union has overhauled its accounting procedures and has indicated he isn’t in favor of more sweeping changes.
The UAW’s Administration Caucus, which Jones also had headed until stepping down, has a long history of fighting off challenges. When Walter Reuther was president in the 1950s it blocked union militants, some associated with the Communist Party, from holding key positions. In the 1960s, it headed off challenges from Black militants from the Revolutionary Union Movement and in the 1980s fended off a challenge from the New Directions movement led by the late Jerry Tucker, a former UAW board member.
David Gardey, head of the public corruption unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, notes the absolute control of the Administration Caucus and the lack of effective political opposition contributed to Jones’ corruption.
The “culture of corruption” embedded in the union’s top office led to UAW officials taking more than $3.5 million in illicit payments from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Gardey notes. Stellantis, FCA’s successor, has agreed to pay a $30 million fine for its role in the scandal and accept the imposition of a federal monitor.
Gardey describes Jones as a product of the system run by the Administration Caucus. “If the boss told you to do something, you did it,” the prosecutor says.