Norwood Jewell, the former head of the United Auto Workers’ unit attached to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, has been charged by federal prosecutors in Detroit with violating the Labor Management Relations Act. This makes him the highest ranking UAW member to be charged in the union corruption case that appeared to be on pause while investigators reexamined suspects, following a string of convictions in 2018.
Federal investigators are relatively certain that FCA engaged in the widespread bribery of union officials who were able to tap into funds allocated for their National Training Center — a scheme dating back to 2009. According to defamed former FCA vice president Alphons Iacobelli, the goal was to keep union officials “fat, dumb and happy.” Millions of dollars were believed to have been used to buy the UAW’s cooperation, and Jewell appears to have gotten a slice.
According to Bloomberg, court documents indicate Jewell became involved in the conspiracy in 2014, immediately after his election as vice president of the union. As head of the union’s wheelings and dealings with FCA, he served as chairman of the National Training Center’s Joint Activities Board and helped oversee payments from the center. He was also on the UAW’s national negotiating committee for the last labor contract with FCA in 2015, making him a person of interest.
The U.S. alleges that Jewell used his National Training Center credit card, or authorized another official to use hers, to charge the costs of multiple expensive dinners at steakhouses in California and Michigan, with the center using FCA funds to pay the bills. Jewell charged $7,569.55 for one meal in January 2015 at LT’s Prime Steakhouse [sic] in Palm Springs, California, the U.S. said.
That must have been an amazing dinner. While we couldn’t find a restaurant by that name in Palm Springs, we did locate a restaurant called “LG’s Prime Steakhouse” that sold 18-ounce bone-in steaks at $74 a pop as its most expensive menu item. Jewell would have had to purchase 102 of them in a single evening to amass such an impressive bill.
Peter Henning, law professor at Wayne State University and a former federal prosecutor, said he believes the decision to file charges against Jewell without going through a grand jury is indicative that he’s cooperating with authorities in exchange for a more lenient sentence — like Iacobelli had done previously. He also suggested the allegation that FCA executives conspired with the company and the UAW, as well as with individual union officials, is a clear sign the government is looking for evidence of more systematic corruption.
“[Jewell is working with prosecutors] towards a fair and just resolution,” explained his attorney, Michael Manley. “We are confident that when the facts of the case come out as it relates to Mr. Jewell, his decades-long reputation of honorable service to members of the UAW will remain intact.”
The UAW has repeatedly claimed that the scandal never compromised collective bargaining agreements with Fiat Chrysler, stressing that measures have been taken to ensure the “misuse of funds” never happens again. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler wants the world to know that the scandal was the work of a few reprobates within the company.
“FCA US firmly restates that it was a victim of illegal conduct by certain rogue individuals who formerly held leadership roles at the National Training Center,” an FCA spokeswoman said on Monday. “The conduct of these individuals — for their personal enrichment and neither at the direction nor for the benefit of the company — had no impact on the collective bargaining process.”
[Image: James R. Martin/Shutterstock]