Same Old UAW: Is This The Beginning Of The End For Shawn Fain?

by | Jul 10, 2024 | DOL, Industry, Labor Relations Ink, Labor Relations Insight, Leadership, Legal, Manufacturing, News, Shawn Fain, UAW, Union Leaders, Union Leaders, Unions

It sure looks like Shawn Fain has more in common with past UAW presidents than he would ever admit. The trash-can-waving head honcho ran on a “reformer” platform while vowing to lead his union away from a deeply entrenched legacy of corruption that landed over a dozen leading UAW officials in prison only a few years ago.

Those offenders included ex-international UAW Presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams, who received 28 and 21 months behind bars for conspiring to embezzle union funds while also committing tax evasion, and ex-Financial Secretary-Treasurer of Local 412 Timothy Edmunds, who received 57 months in prison for money laundering and lifting over $2 million from UAW coffers. This wide-reaching scandal also led to a 2020 federal settlement that included independent watchdog Neil Barofsky being tasked with monitoring the UAW for further illegal shenanigans.

As we discussed in June, Fain – who promised to clean up his union’s reputation while practicing full transparency – has already run afoul of Barofsky after only a year on the job. Is his downfall already here?

To back up a moment, anybody who feels even slightly skeptical about unions could have seen this coming. After all, Fain won the union’s first direct officer election by making a mockery of democracy with shady antics that appeared to include intense voter suppression. Barofsky is now lodging potentially damning accusations against Fain, including:

  • That UAW officials allegedly refused to hand over documents while “delaying and obstructing” an investigation of Fain and other officers.
  • Fain’s recent decision to seize oversight responsibilities of the union’s Stellantis Department from VP Rich Boyer looked like a red flag for good reason. This wasn’t Fain righting the ship after union members felt betrayed over Stellantis layoffs following Big Three contract negotiations. Instead, Fain was allegedly retaliating against Boyer for “refusing to divert benefits to his fiancée,” who is a UAW-Chrysler National Training Center financial analyst, and her sister.
  • Barofsky also flags Fain for stripping power from Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock, who claims that she was retaliated against for refusing to authorize ambiguous expenditure requests “at the request of and/or for the benefit of those in the President’s Office.”
  • Barofsky filed a motion asking a federal judge to compel the UAW to turn in the requested documents pertaining to “misuse of funds” and other associated crimes. The watchdog also reportedly blamed the UAW’s refusal to cooperate for preventing him from  “do[ing] his job of investigating and addressing allegations of corruption and criminal misconduct by the union’s senior-most leaders.” These documents include emails and allegedly contain references to threats, criminal acts, and lavish spending of union dues.

Fain, meanwhile, insists that Barofsky will only discover “a UAW leadership committed to serving the membership and running a democratic union.”

The UAW cookie jar remains tempting to officials, and this mess does not bode well for a “reformer” president accused of what he campaigned against.

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