Federal watchdog investigates UAW president Shawn Fain, accuses union of being uncooperative

Jun 11, 2024, 9:17 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain is under investigation by a court-appointed watchdog who has been working to stamp out corruption at the union in the wake of its stunning bribery and embezzlement scandal several years ago.

The monitor, Neil Barofsky, disclosed that he was investigating Fain — as well as other senior UAW officials — in his ninth report to Judge David M. Lawson on Monday. Barofsky also accused the union of a “recent lapse” in cooperation with his monitor duties, which he says began to erode earlier this year after his investigations into these individuals began.

The report, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan’s Southern Division, outlines some clashes seen on UAW’s International Executive Board over recent months — particularly between Fain and secretary-treasurer Margaret Mock.

Back in February, the report notes, the board passed a motion in support of Fain that withdrew all field assignments assigned to Mock that were “not constitutionally required to be within her remit” and made other policy changes following allegations that she had engaged in misconduct during financial oversight responsibilities.

In response, Mock said the charges were false and alleged that the removal of her authority was done in retaliation for “her refusal or reluctance” to authorize certain expenditures that benefited or were request by those in Fain’s presidential office, the report continues.

The monitor soon began investigating Fain, Mock and the conflicting claims. More recently, the report notes, the monitor expanded the investigation to include additional allegations of retaliation by the Fain against one of the union’s vice presidents — and in a unrelated probe, the monitor also began investigating a regional director after receiving allegations of potential embezzlement.

“At this stage, it is important to emphasize that the allegations are just allegations,” Barofsky alleges, noting that Monday’s report should not be construed as reaching any conclusions about possible charges.

Still, he later added, having the resources necessary to complete his investigations is critical — and UAW has allegedly not been fully-cooperative.

It was when these investigations began to bubble up that the monitor claims there was a shift in UAW’s cooperation with his work. While the union has made employees and senior leaders available for interviews, it has not provided relevant documents in a timely manner, Barofsky alleges — claiming that only a fraction of the documents requested have been made available after months of attempts, most of which were produced last week.

“The Monitor’s assessment is that the Union’s delay of relevant documents is obstructing and interfering with his access to information needed for his investigative work,” Barosky’s Monday report reads — later noting that, if not resolved in the coming weeks, court intervention may be necessary.

In a UAW statement sent to The Associated Press on behalf of Fain, the president said “taking our union in a new direction means sometimes you have to rock the boat, and that upsets some people who want to keep the status quo, but our membership expects better and deserves better than the old business as usual.”

“We encourage the Monitor to investigate whatever claims are brought to their office, because we know what they’ll find: a UAW leadership committed to serving the membership, and running a democratic union,” he added.

Fain has been UAW’s president since the spring of 2023. At the time of his election, in addition to promising to take a more confrontational stance in negotiating with the big automakers, he vowed to clean up the union.

UAW did not immediately share any statements on behalf of Mock on Tuesday. According to Monday’s report from Barofsky, the secretary-treasurer “has also disavowed the Union’s current position as non-cooperative and inconsistent with her own direction to Union staff to fully cooperate.”

Barofsky was appointed back in May 2021, as part of a settlement that avoided a government takeover of the union in the fallout of a wide-ranging bribery and embezzlement scandal. Eleven union officials and a late official’s spouse pleaded guilty in the corruption probe, including the two former presidents who were sentenced to prison. The first criminal charges in the probe were filed in 2017.

This isn’t the first time the union has been accused of being uncooperative with its court-appointed monitor. In Barofsky’s third report back in July 2022, accused the union of withholding information of previous misconduct allegations.

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Federal watchdog investigates UAW president Shawn Fain, accuses union of being uncooperative