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UAW’s Shawn Fain under investigation

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain has more on his mind these days than overturning the “no” vote on Mercedes Benz in Tuscaloosa County last month. The man who became union leader on promises to clean up a scandal-riddled organization is himself under federal investigation.

Part of the consent decree resulting from the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into corruption within the UAW was the establishment of an independent federal monitoring body to monitor the union and prevent corruption. That watchdog, Neil M. Barofsky, began an investigation in February into Fain’s accusations of retaliation against the union’s secretary-treasurer for failing to provide certain funds for his office.

Two of the three sections of the consent decree addressed regulators’ responsibilities for past and current corruption “(1) to help the UAW ensure that its compliance system is able to prevent and remediate fraud and corruption; (2) investigate and respond to suspected 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 the erosion of union leadership cooperation that began in February after revelations of investigations targeting members of the UAW’s International Management Board, including Fain and others.

“Since more than three months have passed since the monitor initiated its investigation and only a small portion of the requested documents have been provided, the monitor assesses that the union’s delay in producing the relevant documents impedes and impedes its access to information needed for its investigation and, if left unresolved, constitutes a clear violation of consent decree,” the report said.

In the filing, the regulator’s office accuses Fain of retaliating against Secretary of the Treasurer Margaret Mock after she rejected a request for money for Fain’s office. The UAW president is accused of taking away her power in retaliation for her refusal or reluctance to approve funding.

In the report, Barofsky stated that he “…has adopted a cooperative attitude with the UAW since the beginning of the monitoring period in seeking to obtain the Union’s cooperation in
conduct its investigative work before taking more significant measures to enforce the consent decree.”

In a separate investigation, the monitor accuses Fain of taking revenge on one of the UAW vice presidents. Barofsky also said he launched an unrelated investigation into the regional director in April after receiving allegations of potential embezzlement.

The consent decree subjects the UAW to two years of federal oversight after more than a dozen auto industry and union leaders were sent to prison, including former UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams, for a pattern of corruption that included violating federal labor laws, stealing union funds and accepting bribes, kickbacks and illegal benefits from contractors and directors of automotive companies.

Unlike previous actions, the current investigation apparently does not involve criminal activity, but it does threaten the continuation of the consent decree and could, if proven true, lead to a federal takeover of the union.