Ex-UAW President Gary Jones resigns membership

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Gary Jones, the former president of the United Auto Workers, has resigned his membership from the union, the UAW said Friday.

The resignation of his membership comes after Jones stepped down as president of the UAW in an unprecedented move last week. His resignation from the presidency came shortly after the union's executive board filed charges under Article 30 of the UAW constitution against him in an effort to remove Jones, claiming he misused union funds on luxuries in California.

Dropping his UAW membership allows Jones to avoid a trial before UAW members next week, union spokesman Brian Rothenberg confirmed.

Gary Jones

Some UAW members celebrated the news: “I say, ‘Good riddance,’” said John Barbosa, 49, of Clinton, a team leader at Fiat Chrysler's Dundee Engine Plant. “I’m glad he’s resigned and not a part of the UAW anymore. What he did was an absolute disgrace. Because of his actions, he’s called into question the integrity of our organization.”

The action to oust Jones, 62, of Canton Township, came in the middle of a federal corruption investigation that has produced 10 convictions and charges against 13 people. Jones has not been charged, but he has been implicated as an unnamed UAW official in the federal probe. Jones went on paid leave Nov. 3 after The Detroit News identified Jones as "UAW Official A" who embezzled, split and pocketed $700,000 in member dues with a top aide, according to prosecutors.

The union's International Executive Board sought to oust Jones and Vance Pearson, the UAW's Region 5 director and a former aide to Jones. Pearson resigned his position and UAW membership Sunday. He was charged in September with embezzlement of union funds, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering. He was later put on paid leave after advising UAW negotiators on labor talks with General Motors Co.

Pearson, Jones and former UAW President Dennis Williams are accused of embezzling more than $1.5 million in member dues that were spent on private villas, liquor, golf and cigars. Williams also has not been charged.

Jones and Pearson "directed the submission of false, misleading and inaccurate expense records to the UAW Accounting Department and further concealed the true information concerning those expenses, in violation of the UAW’s Ethical Practices Code and applicable federal labor laws," according to the union's press release after its board filed charges against the officers last week.

Under Article 30, Jones and Pearson would have had until Thursday to prepare a defense. On Saturday, the UAW would have had to begin selecting jury members for a trial. Jury members are selected from elected delegates to the UAW's most recent convention — many of whom would have elected Jones and Pearson to their positions in June 2018.

Rory Gamble, former UAW vice president and Ford Department director, is the acting UAW president. The union's executive board is expected to vote next week on an official replacement for Jones' four-year term that ends June 2022.

Resigning from the union does not affect the pensions of Jones and Pearson. The UAW has referred to a 1990 Supreme Court decision that an employer cannot withhold an employee's pension. The government through restitution can.

When Jones went on paid leave, however, he agreed to reimburse the union for pay received while on leave should he be convicted in connection with the federal corruption investigation, a source familiar with the situation previously told The News.

Jones and Williams have been removed from the 11-member governing committee of the independently operated UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust fund to remove Jones and Williams from its 11-member governing committee, representatives from the trust and the UAW said. The UAW has not determined who will replace them. The trust is the caretaker for 650,000 UAW retirees' health care benefits.

Jones also is listed as one of 35 members of the board of directors for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The state's largest health insurer has more than 6 million customers, including thousands of autoworkers. Jones joined the board May 22, and directors serve three-year terms.

Jones and Pearson both come from the union's Region 5 office in St. Louis, Missouri. Jones was previously director of the 17-state region from 2012 until 2018 when he became president of the union for 17 months. Pearson took over his leadership of the region after serving as Jones' assistant Region 5 director since January 2016.

Staff writer Robert Snell contributed.


Twitter: @BreanaCNoble