Investigation of UAW’s Shawn Fain

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain has more on his plate these days than overturning last month’s no-union vote at Mercedes Benz in Tuscaloosa County. The man who became union leader by promising to clean up the scandal-plagued organization is himself under federal investigation.

As part of a settlement in a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into corruption at the UAW, the union appointed an independent federal watchdog to oversee the union and prevent corruption. That watchdog, Neil M. Barofsky, opened an investigation in February to address allegations that Fain retaliated against the union’s secretary-treasurer for refusing to provide certain funds to his office.

Two of the three points of the settlement concerned the supervisory authority’s responsibilities with regard to past and present corruption: “(1) to assist the UAW in ensuring that its compliance regime can prevent and eliminate fraud and corruption; (2) to investigate and punish alleged past and present misconduct;”

In a 32-page status report filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, Barofsky describes a decline in cooperation from union leaders that began in February after he uncovered investigations into members of the UAW’s senior International Executive Board, including Fain and others.

“More than three months have passed since the Observer began its investigation and only a small portion of the requested documents have been provided. In the Observer’s assessment, the delay in the union’s release of relevant documents hinders and impairs its access to information it needs for its investigative work. If the problem is not resolved, it will obviously be a breach of the settlement,” the report said.

In the filing, the supervisor’s office alleges that Fain retaliated against Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock after she denied a request for money for Fain’s office. The UAW chairman is accused of stripping her of authority because she failed to approve the funds or was slow to approve them.

In the report, Barofsky stated that he had “…taken a cooperative attitude toward the UAW from the beginning of the monitoring and attempted to obtain the union’s cooperation in order to
to carry out its investigative work before resorting to more serious measures to enforce the settlement decision.”

In a separate investigation, the Observer alleges Fain retaliated against one of the UAW’s vice presidents. Additionally, Barofsky said he launched an independent investigation into a regional director in April after receiving allegations of possible embezzlement.

The settlement places the UAW under federal supervision for two years after more than a dozen auto industry and union leaders were imprisoned, including former UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. The unions had engaged in multiple corruption offenses, including violating federal labor laws, stealing union funds, and accepting bribes, kickbacks, and illegal payments from contractors and auto executives.

Unlike previous activities, the current investigation does not appear to involve criminal activity, but it does jeopardize the continuation of the settlement and, if the allegations are true, could lead to a federal takeover of the union.