‘No More Forced Dues’ For Crooked UAW Union Bosses?

Gary Jones is just one of many top UAW officials who exploited their coercive power to enrich themselves even as they publicly pretended to be “leaders” of a “workers’ movement.” To end such Big Labor corruption, first the coercive power needs to be eliminated. Image” A.F. Branco for NRTWC. (Cartoon by A.F. Branco for the National RIght to Work Committee.)

Late last year, United Auto Workers (UAW)  insider Rory Gamble took the helm of his corruption-ridden union when then-President Gary Jones was forced to step down under an ethical cloud.  On June 3, Jones became the 10th senior official of the AFL-CIO-affiliated UAW to plead guilty to federal crimes since 2017 in connection with  an ongoing probe into embezzlement, racketeering, and labor law violations.

Jones specifically admitted to “scheming with at least six other “senior union officials” to spend more than a million dollars in union treasury money, much of i forced dues extracted from employees in non-Right to Work states.  The luxury items purchased with the loot included “more than $750,000 spent on private villas, cigars, golf equipment and apparel, meals and liquor — including $400 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne and Canadian vodka served in a crystal skull.”

Today Gamble, whose own ties with one of the union’s “highest-paid vendors” are now being probed by FBI agents as they investigate possible bribery of high-level UAW officials, meets with U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, who is overseeing prosecutors’ efforts to root out corruption in UAW officialdom and top management of unionized auto companies. Gamble hopes to sway Schneider not to order a government takeover of the crooked union.

Though Schneider has repeatedly stated publicly that a takeover, which would surely entail the “early retirements of a cadre of union officials,” is on the table, he has also indicated that such a radical and rare move could be avoided if the UAW brass were to agree promptly to far-reaching reforms that would make it effectively impossible in the future for union bosses like Jones to get away, year after year, with ripping off workers.

Which reforms?  In his on-the-record communications with the media, Schneider has not specified what he has in mind.  But millions of freedom-loving Americans already know in their hearts what he ought to require first of all from UAW officials in order to avoid a takeover, or alternatively make the first order of business of a UAW takeover if union kingpins balk:  Unchaining the countless thousands of autoworkers and employees who are still being forced today to bankroll the UAW, or be fired from their jobs.

Speaking on behalf of such Americans, Mark Mix, the president of the National Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, wrote to Schneider late last week.  As Mix explained in his letter, UAW bosses abused workers, year after year, by using “the extraordinary privileges granted to them by federal law — primarily their dual coercive powers of monopoly exclusive representation and authorization to cut deals mandating that rank-and-file workers pay union dues or fees, or else be fired (in states without Right to Work protections).”

While Mix proposed certain reforms that would be very useful to deter future embezzlement and racketeering, one proposal is simply indispensable: empowering “workers as individuals to fight corruption through refusing to fund” the UAW.  Schneider could accomplish this end first by requiring UAW officials to “renounce and cease all enforcement of existing so-called ‘union security’ clauses that make payment of union dues or fees” mandatory.  The next step is changing the UAW constitution to “forbid the negotiation of such forced dues clauses in all future collective bargaining contracts.”  Finally, Schneider should demand that UAW kingpins end enforcement “of any dues checkoff authorizations or other policies that limit workers’ ability to immediately stop deductions of union dues or fees from their paychecks.”

Individual employees’ free choice to join and bankroll a union, or not, is the cleansing material needed to clean up the UAW.  Without it, Schneider’s bid to bring lasting, genuine and positive change to the UAW cannot succeed, no matter how well-intentioned he is.