‘We Knew All Along We Were Being Sold Out’

iacobelli-holiefield
According to federal prosecutors, for six-and-a-half years, Fiat-Chrysler executive Al Iacobelli (left) and UAW Vice President General Holiefield used a tax-exempt, multi-million-dollar worker training fund as their personal piggy bank. credit: Detroit News file

Charges ‘Call Into Question the Integrity’ of UAW Contracts

The United Auto Workers (UAW/AFL-CIO)-Chrysler National Training Center in Detroit is a tax-exempt nonprofit operation funded by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), one of the two giant Big Labor-impaired car and truck manufacturers that went bankrupt in 2009 and were subsequently bailed out by D.C. politicians.

The FCA training center, like two other such centers sponsored by Big Labor-dominated General Motors and Ford, is supposed to help the UAW rank and file prepare for new careers if or when their auto-sector jobs disappear.

(It is primarily due to such job losses that UAW membership has plummeted by 285,000 just since 2002.)

But for six-and-a-half years, according to a federal indictment unsealed in late July, the UAW-Chrysler training center was actually being used to funnel millions of dollars into the pockets of corrupt UAW bosses and FCA executives.

Prosecutors charge that, starting in 2009, then-FCA head of labor relations Al Iacobelli, then-UAW Vice President General Holiefield, and Monica Morgan, at that time Mr. Holiefield’s girlfriend and subsequently his wife, began using training center funds as their personal piggy bank.

Rank-and-File Auto Worker’s Question For UAW President: ‘Do You Think We’re Stupid?’

Mr. Holiefield (who passed away in 2015) and Ms. Morgan allegedly together pilfered a total of $1.2 million from the training center. Since it is a tax-exempt charity, taxpayers as well as workers were the victims.

The UAW kingpin and his bride used training center funds to pay off a $262,219 mortgage on a home they owned in Macomb County, Mich., as well as for first-class air travel and luxurious clothing and jewelry for her.

The late Mr. Holiefield was the only UAW official named in the July indictment, but the charges indicated that several other senior UAW officials were involved in a conspiracy to steal at least $4.5 million.

In mid-August, shortly before this Newsletter edition went to press, former UAW Associate Director Virdell King became the second union boss to be named as a coconspirator in the training center case.

According to a Detroit Free Press news account, Ms. King was charged with stealing more than $40,000 in worker training funds to buy, for example, “a shot gun, golf equipment, luggage, concert tickets, theme park tickets,” and a $1000 pair of Christian Louboutin shoes for herself.  She later entered a guilty plea.

David Gelios, the head of the FBI in Detroit, has said the allegations against Mr. Iacobelli, Mr. Holiefield, Ms. King, and other unnamed UAW bigwigs call “into question the integrity of [UAW] contracts negotiated during the course of this criminal conspiracy.”

Dennis Williams, the UAW president, insists Mr. Gelios is wrong. The fact that Mr. Holiefield was accepting large sums of money that ultimately came out of FCA coffers did not affect his negotiations with FCA, Mr. Williams insists.

But many forced-dues-paying UAW members are not accepting the UAW party line. Automotive News quoted one rank-and-filer’s Facebook comment directed at Mr. Williams:

“So you mean to tell me [the] lead negotiators for . . . the UAW and Chrysler were in cahoots with each other and it didn’t have any sort of impact on contract negotiations? Do you think we’re stupid?”

Indeed, as leftist journalist Jerry White has noted, the allegations against Mr. Holiefield actually confirmed the “long-held suspicions” of many FCA workers. He quoted one Jeep worker from Toledo, Ohio: “We knew all along we were being sold out.”

Compulsory Unions Are the ‘Happy Hunting Ground Of … Lustful Despots’

National Right to Work Committee Vice President Greg Mourad commented: “Employees who are protected from compulsory unionism are often able to deter Big Labor corruption. Union bosses who might be inclined to cheat them know that union members who even suspect they’re being ripped off can quit the union and cut off all financial support for it.

“But compulsory unionism fosters Big Labor corruption by denying the individual employee the power to fight back by ceasing to bankroll the organization.

“That’s why, as labor-relations scholar Sylvester Petro colorfully put it nearly 60 years ago, once trade unions become ‘voluntary associations,’ they will ‘no longer be the happy hunting ground of the lustful despots which they now are.’”

(Click here to download the October 2017 National Right To Work Newsletter)