You will be shocked to learn that UAW labor union leaders have been living a life of luxury on membership dues and payments from the car companies they were supposed to be negotiating with. Today the NY Times published a piece looking at the most recent evidence of corruption involving the UAW’s two most recent presidents. If Elizabeth Warren wants to go after fat cats buying exorbitantly expensive bottles of wine, she might want to start with the UAW:
At the heart of the U.A.W. embezzlement scandal, which dates back at least to 2013, was an elaborate hospitality tab known as the “master account.” Union officials opened such accounts at hotels like the Renaissance Palm Springs, the site of an annual series of conferences. According to the federal complaint, union officials billed to this account not just rooms and food that they bought at the hotel but also a variety of other expenses weeks before and after the conferences…
Among the expenses charged to the master account were the villas, which were tucked away in a gated community and cost about $5,000 a month, and dinners that ran into thousands of dollars. The bill for one meal at LG’s Prime Steakhouse topped $6,500 and featured a $1,760 charge for four bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne.
What the investigation has uncovered is that the UAW’s most recent president, Gary Jones, used money from the master account to make himself the heir apparent to his predecessor Dennis Williams:
In interviews, three union officials said it was clear that Mr. Jones was courting Mr. Williams in order to succeed him as president. One Region 5 official noted that Mr. Jones, who was not previously a regular cigar smoker, turned himself into a cigar aficionado in the mold of Mr. Williams after becoming regional director. The official said Mr. Jones acquired a few humidors for the regional headquarters in Hazelwood, Mo.
Colleagues said that despite their expensive tastes, Mr. Jones and Mr. Williams were a study in contrasts. Mr. Williams told fellow officials in the 2000s that he was a socialist…
Mr. Jones, by contrast, appeared to be more conservative and less interested in new organizing opportunities.
This is far from the only corruption the investigation has turned up. In March I wrote about UAW Vice President Norwell Jewell who was charged for his involvement in the same scheme. But my favorite example of union hypocrisy connected to this story involves the lakefront house that the union built for socialist Dennis Williams after he resigned as president. The FBI looked at the contracts and discovered the union had decided to use non-union labor to save money on the construction:
Instead of using more expensive union laborers, the UAW has hired a nonunion electrician, a nonunion excavation company and is in talks to hire a nonunion plumber to work on the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath, 1,885-square-foot stone home at the UAW Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center in Onaway. The 1,000-acre retreat in northern Michigan is financed with interest from the union’s $721 million strike fund, which is bankrolled by worker dues.
“This changes it from a story of suspected misuse of union funds, which some union members have a surprising tolerance of, to a story of hypocrisy,” Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan business professor, said. “A union that is in favor of union labor until it costs more is the same as any company that fights against union labor.”
As the Times story points out, the UAW leadership in the past decade has looked a lot like fat cats living the high life. Just something to keep in mind as Democratic candidates for president continue to praise union membership. In fact, in the midst of all this corruption, both Warren and Sanders took time to march with the UAW: “When unions win, Americans win, all across this country,” Warren said. But the people at the top of the union win a little more than the rest.