Former UAW President Gary Jones pleaded guilty to embezzlement, racketeering, and fraud charges yesterday in what was a long-awaited denouement to a case that has seemingly been around forever. Jones will likely see a prison sentence—and possibly even a lengthy one–but the union he betrayed is still feeling the effects.
Jones’ plea hearing had been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic; it was originally supposed to happen in March just as the pandemic was taking hold in the U.S. But it was on Wednesday that Jones pled guilty from an undisclosed location via video conference. He has largely been unseen and unheard from for months as the federal investigation into the UAW homed in on him.
On Wednesday, he was both seen and heard.
“I recognize that my actions violated the law as well as my sworn obligation to my fellow union members,” Jones said, according to Automotive News. “I apologize to my UAW family for this betrayal of trust and pray that they will forgive me.”
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Jones is the 14th person to plead guilty in that investigation, and he probably will be getting more than just a slap on the wrist when it comes to sentencing.
Automotive News explains how much time and money of his will be gone:
He could receive up to 10 years in prison, although the two parties said Wednesday they had agreed to a sentence of 46 to 57 months, or a little less than half of the maximum. If Jones provides substantial assistance, his time could be reduced further, prosecutors said. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 6.
Jones agreed to forfeit about $32,000 seized from his home last year, about $81,000 from his “flower fund” and about $31,000 from another union account. He also agreed to forfeit a set of Titleist golf clubs seized from his home that prosecutors said he bought with UAW money.
Taking away his golf clubs was probably not necessary but is, among other things, extremely funny.
Anyway, the rank and file are appropriately upset, via the Detroit News:
“I’m glad to hear that he owned up to his misdoings but … he just seemed unmoved by it,” said Johnny Pruitte, a General Motors Co. tradesman in Arlington, Texas, and former Local 276 president who worked with Jones while he headed his region. “I feel he may be upset not about that he did wrong, but that he got caught.”
[Said] Jonathon Mason, a line worker at Ford Motor Co.’s Dearborn Truck plant:“Whatever it takes to clean up this cesspool. Dues-paying members deserve better. Period.”
And while a guilty plea from Jones had seemed like an inevitability for some time now, the real news of yesterday’s plea is that prosecutors still aren’t really satisfied with the union’s level of cooperation, setting the stage for a possible federal takeover.
“My patience has pretty much run out,” [U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider] told The Detroit News. “I would like to have some serious dialogue and serious action about reforming the UAW itself ... within a couple of months.”
Schneider revealed he has been in talks with Justice Department officials about filing a civil racketeering lawsuit. Such a move would enable the government to seize control of the UAW and take broad control of union operations, including the ability to fire senior officers and to empower rank-and-file members to directly elect new leaders.
Schneider is particularly interested in giving UAW members the ability to directly elect international union leaders, a change that likely would break the Reuther Administrative Caucus’ decades-long monopoly on selecting candidates for top officer positions.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters union underwent such a change after the government took control of the union 30 years ago. Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa “indicated it was good for the leadership,” Schneider said. “Well, if it was good for them, I want to learn more about how it can be applied to the UAW.”
We’ve said it here a million times, but America’s auto workers deserve better than the UAW. And it takes a lot to make one conclude that perhaps federal oversight even under the Trump administration could be a good thing but that’s where we’re at.