UAW moves to oust regional director over sexual harassment allegations

Breana Noble Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — The United Auto Workers' governing International Executive Board moved to oust the regional director overseeing members in Indiana and Ohio following an investigation into sexual harassment, the UAW said Monday.

The action against Region 2B Director Richard Rankin came three weeks after the UAW revealed he was the subject of an independent investigation into his interactions with members of Local 2213, which represents professional registered nurses in Toledo.

Rich Rankin, UAW Region 2B Director, was investigated for sexual harassment in his interactions with a union local that represents registered nurses in Toledo.

"After careful review by the UAW International Executive Board into allegations against UAW 2B Regional Director Richard Rankin, the International Executive Board voted to file Article 30 charges," the UAW said in a statement.

"The report, from an outside third-party investigator, substantiated allegations of workplace harassment, which were brought forward by members in Region 2B. The Board received the report Friday and after review have filed Article 30 charges in response to it."

Rankin, 45, of Swanton, Ohio, said he "adamantly" denies "baseless allegations of workplace harassment" in a statement sent to The Detroit News from his lawyer at Kalniz, Iorio & Reardon in Grand Rapids.

"I am shocked and dismayed that the UAW Executive Board has decided to pursue Article 30 charges based upon a vague and unsubstantiated lawyer's report accusing me of conduct that I did not commit," he said, further noting that the Article 30 charges violate his rights under the UAW's constitution, though he did not say in what way.

"I look forward to clearing my name and expect to be fully vindicated," he said. 

Article 30 of the UAW constitution outlines the process by which an elected international officer can be tried and removed from office. Rankin has 15 days to prepare a defense before a trial is held, according to the constitution.

Although Rankin expressed his intent to continue in his role, the International Executive Board later Monday voted to suspend Rankin, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said. Region 2B will be under the direction of the international union for the time being.

The UAW declined to release the charges "because this filing involves HR issues involving a current employee," Rothenberg said in an email.

The effort to strip Rankin of his UAW membership is the latest shakeup at the top of the UAW and part of a broader series of reforms enacted by President Rory Gamble. He is expected to unveil additional reforms Tuesday aimed at averting a possible government takeover amid a widespread federal investigation that has revealed widespread corruption by UAW leaders.

The investigation has led to criminal charges against Gamble's predecessor, former President Gary Jones, implicated past President Dennis Williams and convicted two former vice presidents.

The investigation has led to 13 convictions and revealed that union leaders embezzled money from worker paychecks, schemed with auto company executives and shook down union contractors.

Article 30 of the UAW constitution requires a written affidavit signed by at least five members of the International Executive Board to pursue charges and a trial against international officers. UAW members pulled from elected convention delegates make up the jury. If this trial committee finds the officer guilty, it can vote to reprimand the officer, remove him or her from office, or revoke the individual's membership.

Under Gamble, the executive board in November pursued Article 30 charges against Jones and Region 5 Director Vance Pearson. Both subsequently resigned their roles and memberships. In January, it also moved to expel from the union under a different constitutional article eight former officers and staffers who have been convicted in the federal probe.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Rankin was elected to director of Region 2B during a special meeting of delegates in June 2017. He was elected to serve his first full four-year term in June 2018.

He became a UAW member in 1997 when he began working at General Motors Co.'s Lordstown Assembly Assembly plant in northeast Ohio. He also previously worked at a Lear Corp. seating plant in the community and held several positions in the local and the region.

Former President Williams announced a hard stance against sexual harassment in late 2017 following a New York Times report on years of sexual harassment at two Ford Motor Co. plants in Chicago.

"Let me be very clear about this: the UAW has a policy of no tolerance — zero tolerance — when it comes to sexual harassment," Williams said. "Working men and women have to understand that people ought to be able to go to the workplace without being harassed for any reason whatsoever."

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble

Staff Writer Kalea Hall contributed.