The United Automobile Workers—already in the middle of its largest labor strike in a decade and a widening corruption scandal—soon may have to face lawmakers on Capitol Hill if House Republicans get their way.
Republican leadership on the House Education and Labor Committee urged committee Democrats to investigate the UAW and confront “widespread, brazen lawbreaking by union leaders.”
The request comes as federal investigators widen their investigation into union leadership accepting bribes and kickbacks through various schemes involving joint training centers run by the union and car makers.
The UAW represents more than 400,000 active members at 1,600 employers across Puerto Rico, Canada, and the U.S., according to the union. Many of its members are concentrated at the three big U.S. automakers—Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
The request was made in a Sept. 19 letter from the committee’s ranking member, Rep.
Foxx and Walberg asked the committee’s Democratic leadership to hold a hearing on alleged UAW corruption by Oct. 31.
The committee’s Democratic leadership didn’t immediately return a request for comment and it’s unclear whether the Republican hearing request will be granted.
UAW: Focus on Members
When asked about the lawmakers’ request, UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg said the union’s attention needs to be on its members.
“The UAW and its membership are focused on taking care of GM and Aramark members to make sure they have quality health care insurance, as well as adequate pay and benefits,” he said in a statement. “GM’s decision to cut access to health insurance for 48,000 members makes this an urgent issue for autoworkers right now. That is where all of our focus continues to be—on our members.”
More than 850 Aramark maintenance workers represented by the UAW are on strike in Michigan and Ohio, along with more than 48,000 GM workers across the country as the UAW negotiates new collective bargaining agreements.
Pending Legislation Cited
A hearing on the UAW’s corruption is necessary as the committee considers legislation that would alter federal labor laws, according to Foxx and Walberg.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (H.R. 2474), or PRO Act, would strengthen employee protections under the National Labor Relations Act. The legislation would walk back states’ so-called right-to-work laws prohibiting employees from being required to join a union. It has more than 200 Democratic co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“If Congress is to update federal labor law, then it must do so in a way that reduces, not increases, the risk of union corruption,” the letter said. “To do so, this Committee must examine such corruption closely.”
The Republicans’ letter suggests that increasing union power through the PRO Act could lead to less accountability. Foxx and Walberg said that not requiring regular re-certification votes for union representation is “a significant shortcoming of federal labor law.”
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