By Nick Carey
DETROIT (Reuters) – The United Auto Workers (UAW) on Wednesday announced a series of ethics reforms in answer to a spreading U.S. federal corruption probe that has resulted in charges or convictions for a number of former leaders of the union.
The UAW said those reforms will include the appointment of an independent ethics ombudsman who will not be an employee of the union; increased financial oversight by the union’s accounting department; and creation of an ethics hotline.
“I’m committed to putting in place the right mechanisms to safeguard our union, regaining the trust of our members, and ensuring the misconduct that has recently come to light will never happen again,” acting UAW president Rory Gamble said in a statement.
To date, 10 people have pleaded guilty in connection with the criminal investigation into illegal payoffs. Just last week former UAW vice president and former GM board member Joseph Ashton was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud.
Earlier this month the UAW said that its president Gary Jones, who had been linked to the ongoing corruption probe, was taking a paid leave of absence.
Last week acting UAW president Gamble said he would scrutinize every department in the union in response to the probe and that the UAW would have to prove it could run itself in order to avoid a possible U.S. government takeover of the labor organization.
In 1988, the U.S. Justice Department sued to force out senior leaders at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union and appoint a trustee because of the union’s connection to organized crime.
The government oversaw the union from March 1989 until 2015, when it agreed to a five-year transition period that will end in February 2020.
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