01.25.2018 0

It is time for the OLMS to audit the UAW International Union

By Richard McCarty

Because the United Auto Workers cannot be counted on to rid itself of corruption, the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) should conduct a compliance audit of the UAW International Union. The UAW International Union is one of about 150 national and international unions, and none of these unions has had a compliance audit since 2009. To support the anti-corruption efforts of OLMS, Congress must appropriate more funding for the small agency so it can afford to conduct these time-consuming compliance audits, which the Obama Administration refused to perform for seven long years.

The UAW is what you might call a habitual offender — year after year after year, UAW officials are prosecuted for corruption. With the UAW regularly showing up in Labor Department enforcement action lists, there’s a strong case that the UAW International Union should be one of the first international unions slated for an audit.

For example, in January of last year, Sergio Acosta, a former president of UAW Local 2326, was charged with conspiring to defraud the local’s self-insured health care plan of $1 million. Acosta was accused of knowingly allowing hundreds of ineligible individuals to receive coverage under the union’s plan.

In June, Michael Bennett, the president of UAW Local 2317, was sentenced for stealing over $100,000 in unions funds. Bennett wrote 170 checks to himself and forged the treasurer’s signature.

In July, Monica Morgan, the widow of a former vice president in the UAW International Union was charged with conspiring to violate the Labor Management Relations Act. She and her deceased husband are alleged to have received over $1.2 million in illegal payments and things of value, which included designer clothing, jewelry, furniture, and a payment of over $260,000 on their home’s mortgage.

In August, Virdell King, a former official in the UAW International Union and a former Assistant Director of the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, pled guilty to conspiring to violate the Labor Management Relations Act. She was charged with accepting over $40,000 in payments and things of value. These funds were supposed to have been spent on training workers.

In September, Bobby Buford, a former president of UAW Local 2419 was sentenced for stealing over $129,000 in unions funds. Buford withdrew cash and issued cashier’s checks from the union’s account and concealed his thefts by filing false reports with the Labor Department.

In October, David Maddy, a former financial secretary-treasurer of UAW Local 2339 pled guilty to embezzling over $37,000 from the union. In December, Anthony Edmunds, a former president of UAW Local 2419, was indicted for embezzling over $19,000 in union funds.

Altogether, these union officials and their co-conspirators were alleged to have stolen roughly $2.5 million from union members. How is it that four current or former UAW presidents were in hot water last year for stealing large sums of money from their members? It would be bad enough if low-level clerks stole from union members, but it’s a much worse thing when those elected to positions of trust betray their members.

While some may try to dismiss these thefts as the actions of a few rogue leaders, it seems reasonable to question the organizational culture that would allow these crimes to occur repeatedly. Also, if federal investigators are finding this many criminals amidst the ranks of UAW officials, one wonders how many more criminals are lurking in the shadows.

Given the UAW’s inability or unwillingness to clean up its act thus far, the government must act to ensure compliance with the law. Congress must appropriate more funds for OLMS, and OLMS should conduct a compliance audit of the UAW International Union. After all, hard-working UAW members have the right to know that their dues and funds set aside for training are being spent appropriately, not used to pay for flashy clothes, five-star hotels, fast cars, and fancy homes for union officials.

Richard McCarty is the director of research for Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

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