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Judge approves UAW consent decree; union has 30 days to propose monitors

Breana Noble Robert Snell
The Detroit News

The United Auto Workers now has 30 days to propose three candidates to monitor its operations as a part of the consent decree reached last month with the federal government.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson on Friday approved the consent decree that will put the beleaguered union under a federal monitor for six years and allow members to vote on whether to amend their constitution to directly elect leaders. That referendum could happen by the end of the year.

The court found "the settlement represents a fair, adequate, and reasonable agreement to resolve substantial claims for civil liability premised on the same fraudulent conduct for which various individuals already have been criminally convicted," Lawson wrote. "The terms of the settlement include significant financial sanctions for the harm caused and provisions that should deter the repetition of similar conduct."

The order came six weeks after federal prosecutors announced a proposed settlement with the UAW aimed at eliminating fraud and wrongdoing within one of the nation's most influential unions following a years-long crackdown on corrupt labor leaders.

In announcing that settlement with federal authorities, UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement: "The entire leadership of the UAW embraces the involvement of a Monitor for a period of time who will provide an extra and independent set of eyes on our Union’s financial and disciplinary processes, and provide complete assurance to our members that the reforms we have initiated take permanent root."

In all, the ongoing crackdown on auto industry corruption has led to the convictions of 15 people, including former UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. The investigation has revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and illegal benefits from union contractors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives.

Under the consent decree, the independent monitor will have the power to combat fraud within the UAW and decide whether to discipline or remove high-ranking labor leaders.

After reviewing the candidates for monitor, the U.S. government may approve one or request other nominations with the goal of selecting a monitor within 60 days. Within six months of selecting the monitor, the UAW must hold the referendum vote on amending the constitution to allow for the direct election of the UAW's executive board.

For roughly 70 years, UAW officers have been voted upon by elected delegates representing their locals. With a few exceptions, the powerful Reuther Administrative Caucus effectively controlled who would ascend to top leadership — and who wouldn't.

The UAW also will appoint an adjudications officer. The monitor and adjudications officer will be able to employ the personnel necessary to perform their functions. The UAW will be responsible for compensating those positions and their activities.

The U.S. Justice Department this week also settled with Stellantis NV’s Fiat Chrysler Automobiles U.S. operations for one count violation of the Labor Management Relations Act. The automaker will plead guilty, pay $30 million and be subject to three years of federal oversight in its labor relations.

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble

rsnell@detroitnews.com