Rory Gamble, acting president of the United Auto Workers, speaks with CNBC at the union’s temporary headquarters in metro Detroit on Nov. 6, 2019.
Michael Wayland / CNBC
DETROIT — Rory Gamble, acting president of United Auto Workers, is concerned that an ongoing federal corruption probe into the union could lead to a RICO case and government oversight.
“It’s a concern, but we’re going to operate going forward to self-govern and save our union,” he told CNBC on Wednesday. “I would hope that the government would look at that and recognize that, and going forward give consideration to that. We have the ability by what we put in place to do just that, self-govern our union.”
Although the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, is best known for being used against organized crime, it can be and has been used to prosecute widespread corruption in other organizations. Most prominently, the Teamsters union is scheduled to end 30 years of government oversight next year following a consent decree to settle racketeering and corruption charges brought against union leaders in 1989.
The UAW has been at the center of a multiyear federal corruption probe that has led to charges against 13 people, including 10 convictions. UAW President Gary Jones also took a leave of absence, effective Sunday, days after being implicated in the multiyear investigation. Jones, whose Michigan home was raided in August, has not been charged by federal prosecutors.
Gamble, a former Ford Motor worker, said he supported Jones’ leave of absence not because he believes Jones is guilty but because it was Jones’ choice and he is “innocent until proven guilty.” If Jones is convicted, Gamble said, he would then support the union stripping Jones of his title.
“If that happens — I pray that it doesn’t, I pray that he is successful in defending his name — but in the event that happens, we are duty-bound to protect this organization,” he said.
Gamble said he is “confident” the union’s “remaining board members are clean.” UAW Region 5 Director Vance Pearson, who took a leave of absence last month, is the only member of the union’s current International Executive Board to be charged.
Gamble intends to submit extensive reform plans on Thursday to the International Executive Board. He declined to disclose specifics of the plans prior to approval from the board.
“I think they’re very creative and they will get us to where we need to be,” Gamble said. “They are very different than how we’ve operated in the past, and I think we need to do that at this point in time to save our union.”
When the federal investigation was made public in July 2017, it focused on a training center jointly operated by the UAW and Fiat Chrysler. But it quickly expanded to probes into similar operations with and Ford Motor, which both previously confirmed they were cooperating with the investigation.
In recent months, the probe has widened to include top union leaders unaffiliated with the training centers being charged with embezzlement of union funds, money laundering and other illegal activities.
No one from the union’s Ford department has been charged, nor have any executives with GM or Ford. GM, as part of a recently ratified contract with the union,