By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) will directly elect officers after a referendum required as part of a 2020 Justice Department settlement to resolve a corruption probe.
U.S. District Judge David Lawson in Detroit on Tuesday approved the results of the referendum and ordered the change by June, which will be in time for the next union election cycle. The union in 2020 also agreed to an independent court-appointed monitor as part of the Justice Department settlement into allegations that resulted in the convictions of two former UAW presidents, among others.
UAW officers have been elected through a delegate system rather than through direct elections. More than 63% of current and retired members voted in favor of direct elections in a secret ballot.
“We will continue to work with the monitor to ensure that the UAW is fully reformed, free of corruption and fraud, and that the union’s elections will be fair,” said Dawn Ison, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Under the Justice Department consent decree, monitor Neil Barofsky has authority to exercise disciplinary powers within the UAW, investigate possible fraud or corruption and seek discipline against UAW officers and members.
Barofsky will design the new election system after consulting with the UAW.
Numerous UAW officers pleaded guilty to embezzling millions of dollars for their personal benefit, using the funds for liquor, cigars, golf outings and expensive hotel stays.
In August, FCA US, the North American operating subsidiary of Stellantis was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to making more than $3.5 million in illegal payments to UAW officers. FCA paid a $30 million fine.
The UAW represents about 400,000 U.S. workers, including workers at Detroit’s Big Three automakers and in other fields. At its peak in 1979, the union had a membership of some 1.5 million.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)