DETROIT — UAW President Gary Jones has taken a leave of absence amid a widening corruption probe into the union, according to an email to union employees obtained Saturday by Automotive News.
Rory Gamble, the vice president in charge of the UAW’s Ford Motor Co. department, will be acting president, effective Sunday. The union’s International Executive Board held an emergency meeting in which Jones asked for the leave of absence, the email said.
Jones has been implicated in a widening corruption probe that so far has resulted in 12 charges and 10 guilty pleas.
“The UAW is fighting tooth and nail to ensure our members have a brighter future,” Jones said in a statement issued by the union Saturday. “I do not want anything to distract from the mission. I want to do what’s best for the members of this great union.”
Gamble, in the statement, said his focus will be on the union’s ongoing contract negotiations with the Detroit 3.
“Together throughout the last few months, we’ve achieved substantial victories for UAW members and we know that we have more work to do,” Gamble said in a statement. “We want better health care coverage, better salaries and respect for our work. That will not change.”
Edward Robinson, a former top aide to Jones and head of a UAW regional community action program council, was charged last week with conspiracy to embezzle union funds and conspiracy to defraud the U.S.
According to the complaint, Robinson and six others, including UAW Region 5 Director Vance Pearson, embezzled more than $1.5 million and filed false expense reports to conceal any wrongdoing.
Robinson worked closely with unidentified “UAW Official A,” which The Detroit News has reported is Jones. Jones has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
The latest complaint includes a number of potentially incriminating details about UAW Official A.
According to the complaint, Official A told Robinson “in or about” late 2017 they needed to “halt the cash embezzlement portion of the conspiracy because of the ongoing federal criminal investigation of the United Auto Workers union and because of a new UAW position being taken by UAW Official A.”
Jones was named the union’s president in June 2018. The News, citing Jones’ lawyer, said the leave of absence will be paid.
Official A also promised to “take care of” one of Robinson’s relatives with a “sham job” if Robinson agreed to take sole responsibility for a portion of the embezzlement, according to the complaint. It also said Official A told Robinson in May 2019 he wished they “burned the records” related to the embezzlement scheme.
The UAW’s headquarters has been shuttered since July due to a fire in the union’s information technology department that also damaged adjacent public relations office space. Arson has been ruled out as a cause of the fire.
Pearson later told Robinson he’d get him a “burner phone” to avoid a federal wiretap, and that he should “get rid of” any incriminating evidence.
The complaint also notes that UAW Official A was in possession of more than $32,000 in cash at his personal residence on August 28. Jones’ home was raided that day, along with the homes of other UAW officials, and media reports that day quoted witnesses saying investigators counting cash.