UAW open to meeting with prosecutors amid federal corruption probe

UAW leadership is open to meeting with federal investigators after the U.S. attorney overseeing an ongoing corruption probe spent months downplaying the union’s recent reform efforts and calling for more cooperation.

UAW President Rory Gamble “would welcome the opportunity to personally meet with U.S. Attorney [Matthew] Schneider and his team to discuss the investigation and the reform efforts and new ethics programs the UAW has undertaken,” union spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in a statement on Thursday. Rothenberg said Gamble planned to announce “major progress” on ethics reforms by the end of the month.

The Detroit News reported the two sides’ willingness to meet earlier Thursday. A spokeswoman for Schneider’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Thursday.

A meeting between the two parties would mark the latest step Gamble is taking in an effort to avoid a federal takeover of the UAW through the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Schneider has repeatedly said a RICO case remains a possibility and that union officials were not cooperating as much as he’d like.

Earlier this month, in announcing charges against former UAW President Gary Jones, Schneider gave his strongest hint yet that prosecutors would seek that route. The investigation to date has resulted in charges against 14 people and 13 guilty pleas. Jones is expected to plead guilty when he appears in court next month.

“It’s not the people working the jobs, it’s the leadership,” Schneider said. “That is a real indicator there’s a larger problem here, and that’s why we haven’t taken government oversight off the table. That could be appropriate when you have a situation where it’s embedded, systemic, long-term corruption.”

Schneider earlier this month also said he “was not impressed” with the union’s recent reform efforts. Gamble has attempted to implement a number of financial and ethical reforms to stave off government oversight, but Schneider said much more could be done.

“We have to talk about real reforms, genuine reforms,” he said. “We’re not really seeing that right now.”

Schneider suggested then that the union should consider direct election of officers as a step toward rooting out corruption.

The comments earlier this month echo statements Schneider made late last year when he started speaking publicly about the ongoing investigation.

The union has long argued it is cooperating with federal prosecutors, reiterating in a Thursday statement that it has “produced millions of pages of documents and electronic records to the government, and we have brought in every UAW witness the government has asked to speak with or have testify in the grand jury.”

Rothenberg also confirmed Thursday it has hired New York law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton to provide “technical assistance with our ethics and compliance reform efforts.” He said the union has used the firm for 27 years.