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July 03, 2020

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Say It Ain’t So, Jones: Ex-UAW President Pleads Guilty to Stealing Member Dues

The hits to the United Auto Workers (UAW) union keep on coming. Former UAW president Gary Jones, who stepped aside as head of the union last year in the midst of a federal probe, has pleaded guilty to a scheme where he and others stole more than $1 million in members’ dues money.

National Public Radio summed up some of the improper conduct by Jones and others: 

“Gary Jones, the former president of the United Auto Workers, has pleaded guilty to embezzlement, racketeering and tax evasion as part of a larger scandal over union corruption that has shaken trust in the union and exposed it to a possible federal takeover. Jones admits he conspired to embezzle more than $1 million out of dues paid by union members, the Department of Justice said Wednesday. The corruption started in 2010 when Jones was a high-ranking UAW official…Jones and other union officials spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in union funds on personal expenses such as golfing, cigars, meals and liquor, and private villas while using fraudulent expense forms to conceal the embezzlement, the Justice Department said. ‘In just one of the years of the conspiracy, Jones used UAW money to purchase over $13,000 in cigars for the use of high-level UAW officials,’ the department said.”

As further detailed in a Department of Justice press release:

“During the guilty plea hearing, Jones admitted to conspiring with at least six other high-level UAW officials in a multi-year conspiracy to embezzle money from the UAW for the personal benefit of Jones and other senior UAW officials. Jones and other UAW officials concealed personal expenditures in the cost of UAW Region 5 conferences held in Palm Springs, California, Coronado, California, and Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Between 2010 and 2018, Jones and other UAW officials submitted fraudulent expense forms seeking reimbursement from the UAW’s Detroit headquarters for expenditures supposedly incurred in connection with Region 5 leadership and training conferences. In truth, however, Jones and his co-conspirators used the conferences to conceal the hundreds of thousands of dollars in UAW funds spent on lavish entertainment and personal spending for the conspirators.”

Of course, Jones is only the latest union official to be caught stealing money from union members’ dues funds – funds taken directly from those members’ paychecks – and the problem is not isolated to the UAW. The Teamsters, Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America, and others all have had their own well-documented problems on this front.

The ex-president’s guilty plea comes during a time when the UAW is suffering from a precipitous drop in membership. This high profile scandal likely won’t be an asset to the UAW as it tries to regain ground and increase its ranks.  

© 2020 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 156


About this Author

David J. Pryzbylski, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Indianapolis, Labor Law Attorney

David concentrates a large portion of his practice on assisting employers with traditional labor matters. His deep experience includes collective bargaining, work stoppages, arbitrations, union avoidance training and strategies, union representation elections, unfair labor practice charges, contract administration, and various other labor relations issues.

David has helped companies secure favorable outcomes with labor issues around the country. He has experience with numerous labor unions, including the Steelworkers, Teamsters, Laborers, Sheet...