Federal prosecutors: UAW Vice President lived life of luxury on Fiat Chrysler bribes

United Auto Workers Vice President Norwell Jewell has been charged with conspiracy to violate labor laws. Jewell hasn’t made a plea in the case yet but the Detroit News reports he may be planning to plead guilty:

Jewell, 61, who headed the union’s Fiat Chrysler department, was charged in a criminal information, which indicates a guilty plea is expected…

The criminal case focuses heavily on how Fiat Chrysler executives bankrolled a life of luxury for Jewell and other UAW officials in Palm Springs, California, with money that was supposed to train blue-collar workers. In all, prosecutors say Jewell and other UAW officials went on a $100,000 spending spree paid for by Fiat Chrysler.

Fiat Chrysler executives let Jewell and other UAW officials spend almost $59,000 at steakhouses in Palm Springs and Detroit, part of a broader effort by auto company officials to keep labor leaders “fat, dumb and happy,” according to court records.

The court documents outline some of the juicy details which mostly seem to involve juicy steaks:

On January 9, 2015, Norwood Jewell spent $7569.55 at LG’s Prime Steakhouse in Palm Springs, California using his NTC credit card. The meal was paid by the NTC using FCA [Fiat-Chrysler] funds, in violation of the Labor Management Relations Act.

Over several years, Jewell approved the use of Fiat-Chrysler funds to pay for other meals:

  • $4587.04 at LG’s Prime Steakhouse in Palm Springs
  • $3,372.74 at Spencers in Palm Springs
  • $6,200.05 at Steak & Chop in Palm Springs
  • $4,147.74 at Melvyn’s Restaurant in Palm Springs
  • $7,694.07 at London Chop House in Detroit

And so on. These guys were treating themselves to some very nice meals on Fiat-Chrysler’s dime. So “fat, dumb, and happy” wasn’t a metaphor in this case. There were also a few golf fees at courses in Palm Springs included. The UAW has released a statement on the situation:

We are deeply saddened by today’s news of criminal filings and understand the frustrations our members feel when allegations like this are made about a former officer. We have already implemented many reforms and enacted new policies to prevent any misuse of funds at the joint program centers from ever happening again, and we will continue to vigilantly review our practices to make sure any lax financial controls are identified and fixed going forward.

That sounds great but they have a big cleanup ahead of him because this wasn’t the work of just one VP. From the Detroit News:

The criminal case Monday reiterates that the UAW was plagued by corruption within the top ranks of the UAW from 2009 through 2016, a period covering the tenure of several vice presidents and presidents, including former President Dennis Williams and the late UAW Vice President General Holiefield.

“During the Holiefield leadership years, a ‘culture of corruption’ was continued and enhanced between Holiefield, his staff, and executives of (Fiat Chrysler) to violate the Labor Management Relations Act,” prosecutors wrote in the court filing.

Holiefield retired in 2015 and died the following year. His widow, Monica Morgan Holiefield, was charged during the investigation, convicted of a tax crime and sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.

She was accused of receiving several illegal benefits, including $32,000 worth of flights, a $43,300 pool and $260,000 to pay off her mortgage.

I’m sure all the people working under a UAW-negotiated contract with Fiat-Chrysler feel great about it right now.