UAW Infighting Draws Attention From Court-Appointed Monitor

A report by the union's court-appointed monitor cites a “recent lapse in the UAW’s cooperation…as it pertains to the Union’s top-ranked officials.”

Joseph Szczesny

June 12, 2024

6 Min Read
UAW successfully organized Volkswagen of America plant in Tennessee in April.

A dispute over a billboard and an argument over a sensitive appointment in the union’s Stellantis department are triggering a new round of investigations by the court-appointed monitor overseeing the UAW.

The investigation into President Shawn Fain, whose stature was elevated by his deft leadership last autumn during the UAW’s contract battles with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, is part of a report filed with U.S. District Court in Detroit by monitor Neal Barofsky, who was appointed in 2021 to ensure the cleanup of the union’s internal affairs.

“We encourage the Monitor to investigate whatever claims are brought to their office, because we know what they’ll find: a UAW leadership committed to serving the membership and running a democratic union. We’re staying focused on winning record contracts, growing our union and fighting for economic and social justice on and off the job,” Fain says in a statement emailed to WardsAuto after publication of the monitor’s new report.

The monitor states, “This Ninth Report summarizes the first three years of the Monitor’s investigative work, including the recent lapse in the UAW’s cooperation with the Monitor as it pertains to the Union’s top-ranked officials.”

In February, according to the report, the UAW International Executive Board passed a motion “in support of (the President) withdrawing all of the field assignments assigned to the Secretary-Treasurer” that were not constitutionally required to be within her remit and made certain other policy changes in response to allegations from the president’s office that Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock had engaged in misconduct while carrying out her financial oversight responsibilities.

The motion by the executive board followed a dispute between Fain and Mock, the union’s second-ranking officer, on spending for a billboard with a pro-UAW message on the road leading to Volkswagen of America’s Chattanooga plant where the union was launching a campaign to bring 4,200 VOA employees into the union.

As the VW organizing campaign got underway last December, Chris Brooks, Fain’s chief of staff and one of the architects of the new and ultimately successful organizing drive, was pushing to release the funds immediately. Mock, who ran for office promising to restore the union’s fiscal integrity in the wake of scandals leading to the appointment of the monitor, declined to release the funds immediately because the union needed more detailed support for the expenditure, according to sources familiar with the dispute but who are not authorized to speak to the press.

Shawn Fain uaw-president

The UAW never secured the billboard it wanted because the union moved too slowly, and in response, Fain (pictured, above) restricted Mock’s duties, according to the monitor.

“In response, the Secretary-Treasurer lodged allegations of her own against the Union’s President that, among other things, the charges against her were false, and that the removal of her authority was improperly instigated in retaliation for her refusal or reluctance to authorize certain expenditures of funds at the request of and/or for the benefit of those in the President’s Office – and to dilute her power to make similar denials in the future – not in response to any malfeasance on her part,” the monitor’s report notes.

“A few months later, the Monitor expanded this investigation to include allegations advanced against the Union’s President by another IEB member: the Vice President who had been overseeing the Union’s relationship with Stellantis, Rich Boyer, reassigned it under his own control,” the report says.

 Fain, in a memorandum cited by the monitor, claims he acted because Boyer was “derelict” on certain collective bargaining issues. Shortly thereafter, the monitor received allegations from Boyer and “other union” staff that Fain’s explanation was “false.”

Sources, who asked not to be identified by name, say the dispute revolves around the appointment of the top “administrative assistant” in the Stellantis Dept. Under the UAW structure, “AA” is something of a misnomer since the person holding the position serves as a deputy director of the department. In the case of major departments facing off with Detroit’s three automakers or the president’s office, the position can serve as a steppingstone to the UAW executive board – or a source of corruption.

The monitor’s latest report includes a section that finds James Hardy, a former top aide to the disgraced General Holiefield, a former UAW vice president sentenced to 18 months in prison for corruption, “engaged in a job-selling scheme in which Hardy accepted thousands of dollars in exchange for referring individuals for jobs at Chrysler before resigning in 2013. “Based on this misconduct, on June 5, 2015, Hardy entered into a pre-trial diversion agreement with the government for misprision of the felony of wire fraud,” the monitor notes.

Hardy was never charged but instead became a key government witness before a federal grand jury probing misconduct in the UAW. Another AA, James Beardsley, who retired in 2004, embezzled $85,000, according to the monitor.

Fain now has one candidate for the Stellantis AA post and Boyer has another.

Boyer, as an elected member of the union executive board, recently asked for a “poll” of IEB members, who were evenly divided “seven to seven” over whether he should be relieved of his responsibilities, according to sources familiar with the board’s actions.

The division could mean the dispute between Boyer and Fain is likely to linger until the union’s executive board meets in person.

It is further complicated by the fact the Monitor says at least one of UAW’s regional directors who sit on the executive board is under active investigation for embezzlement. The charges of embezzlement under investigation remain unproven, according to the report, which is posted on the monitor’s website. (https://www.uawmonitor.com/)

The monitor also states the UAW, despite Fain’s pledge to cooperate, is resisting producing the document critical to the investigation.

The division on the board, and the investigation into the unnamed regional director, come at a critical time for the union.

The UAW is still facing pressure at Stellantis where one key local representing workers at a stamping plant in Warren, MI, has held a strike vote, and workers are complaining about speedups and cutbacks in other plants as the company continues threatening to move key products to Mexico. At the same time, the UAW is negotiating a first contract with Volkswagen, while it hopes to organize other plants in the Southern auto belt.

It also threatens the authority of Fain, who has emerged as a new voice for working people by mixing progressive politics and populist economic rhetoric with Biblical references.

“Everyone’s fight is our fight,” Fain says in a message to LGBTQ supporters.

Fain was narrowly elected in the spring of 2023, when his supporters won a slim majority on the executive board. The majority appears to have eroded during the recent infighting.

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