UAW president’s home targeted in new federal raids

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DETROIT — The home of UAW President Gary Jones was targeted in a series of FBI raids across Michigan and other states as part of a widening investigation into a yearslong federal corruption scandal involving auto executives who offered bribes and kickbacks to influence labor negotiations.

Federal agents executed search warrants at multiple locations, including Jones’ home in Canton, Mich., and the UAW Black Lake Conference Center. The Detroit News reported that other locations searched were the California home of former UAW President Dennis Williams, the Wisconsin home of Williams’ former aide Amy Loasching, and UAW Region 5 headquarters near St. Louis, Mo. Jones was previously director of Region 5.

FBI spokeswoman Sutton Roach said:  “The FBI is executing lawful search warrants today. We decline to comment further at this time.”

The UAW said in an emailed statement that the union and Jones both have been cooperating with the investigation, adding: “There was absolutely no need for search warrants to be used by the government today.”

The News reported Black Lake is part of the investigation of the UAW building a retirement home for Williams. The project has raised questions about union leaders spending membership dues on personal luxury items.

So far, nine Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives and UAW officials have been charged in the scandal, including former UAW vice presidents General Holiefield and Norwood Jewell, and former FCA official Alphons Iacobelli. Michael Grimes, an assistant in the UAW’s General Motors department, was the first UAW official outside of the FCA department to be charged. Eight people have received prison sentences stemming from the probe.

The scandal has dominated union talks with the Detroit 3 automakers this summer as trust in union leadership has eroded.

“This round of contract negotiations was always going to be very difficult, even without the shadow of a federal investigation hanging over the union,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Center for Automotive Research. “That shadow has just become a giant storm cloud.”

Even if the FBI searches do not result in indictments, this development further undermines the confidence of rank-and-file UAW members in their union’s leadership, she added.

“That could make it very difficult to ratify a new contract,” Dziczek said, pointing to potentially bad news for the union and automakers alike.

The UAW full statement reads:

“The UAW and President Gary Jones have always fully cooperated with the government investigators in this matter. As the leader of the UAW, President Jones is determined to uncover and address any and all wrongdoing, wherever it might lead.

“There was absolutely no need for search warrants to be used by the government today — the UAW has voluntarily responded to every request the government has made throughout the course of its investigation, produced literally hundreds of thousands of documents and other materials to the government, and most importantly, when wrongdoing has been discovered, we have taken strong action to address it. The UAW will continue to cooperate with the government in its investigation, as we have been doing throughout. 

“Trust in UAW leadership is never more important than during the bargaining process, when profit-laden auto companies stand to benefit from media leaks, false assumptions, and political grandstanding. The sole focus of President Jones and his team will be winning at the bargaining table for our members.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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