The United Auto Workers faces the threat of a government takeover after former president Gary Jones pleaded guilty on Wednesday to racketeering charges.
Jones admitted that he helped steal over $1 million from rank-and-file union members, in a case that helped reveal widespread corruption at the highest levels of the union. Former vice president of the union Joe Ashton was charged in November 2019 for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, while other officials have been prosecuted as part of an embezzling scheme.
“I apologize to my UAW family for this betrayal of trust and pray that they will forgive me,” Jones said during a virtual court hearing on Wednesday.
Matthew Schneider, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and the lead prosecutor in Jones’s case, told the Detroit Free Press that he is discussing with Justice Department officials the possibility of charging the UAW itself with racketeering. The move could allow the federal government to take control of the union, fire senior officials and enable direct elections by rank-and-file members of candidates to the board.
“My patience has pretty much run out… I would like to have some serious dialogue and serious action about reforming theitself…within a couple of months,” Schneider said.
The sprawling corruption probe into the UAW ballooned in a tumultuous time during which auto workers went on strike for over a month in September and October 2019. The coronavirus pandemic has since upended factory operations, with the Trump administration compelling auto makers to produce medical equipment through use of the Defense Production Act.