The United Automobile Workers union will hire an independent ethics officer and enact other safeguards to boost accountability in the wake of a long-running corruption scandal, UAW Acting President Rory Gamble announced Nov. 13.
The new rules are the union’s latest attempt to rebuild workers’ trust in the organization as a slow-burning corruption scandal continues to implicate labor officials, including International President Gary Jones, who took a leave of absence Nov. 4 following a report that he played a role in an embezzlement scheme.
Announced reforms also include the establishment of an Ethics Hotline and an Ethics Ombudsman who will receive, review, and respond to complaints alleging ethical wrongdoing. The ombudsman will refer matters to the new Ethics Officer for investigation. A national search is underway to hire an ethics officer, the union said.
The union also announced that it would sell a cabin it was constructing for former President Dennis Williams that had attracted criticism for drawing from UAW finances.
“This is just the beginning,” Gamble said in a statement. “But it’s a beginning that will set us on the right path for the future. As a member of this union for nearly 40 years, I am committed to the mission of this union in bringing prosperity and dignity to millions of American workers and creating and maintaining this country’s middle class.”
Building on Prior Reforms
It was exactly eight months ago to the day that then-President Jones promised accountability changes were coming to the UAW. The commitment came as part of “The UAW’s Clean Slate” initiative that Jones unveiled at the union’s special bargaining convention in Detroit.
The new controls build on some Clean Slate provisions. The union announced in March that UAW officials and employees were banned from soliciting contributions to their separate charities from any employers, vendors, or joint training centers. Now, those officials and employees are prohibited from even receiving such contributions.
A commitment to independently audit joint union-company programs was included in the Clean Slate agenda and reiterated in the new commitments.
Gamble told Bloomberg News last week that his list of new ethics controls were meant to avoid a federal takeover of the union, similar to what happened to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 1989.
“At this point, we have to be cognizant of that, but we still have a union to protect and maintain,” Gable said, referring to a federal takeover. “I’m truly praying that we don’t have to go down that road.”