Another senior union official has been charged in connection to a bribery scandal at Fiat Chrysler.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice accused Keith Mickens, the former United Auto Workers codirector of the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, of diverting money from worker training for his own purposes. Mickens is accused of using the funds to purchase high-end luggage, clothes, electronics, and golf equipment in violation of the National Labor Relations Act, according to the Detroit News. Mickens is the fifth labor or company official found in connection to the scheme to siphon hundreds of thousands of dollars that were supposed to benefit workers.
Federal labor filings show that the union paid Mickens a $115,000 salary as well as $12,500 in reimbursements for business purposes in 2015, his last year with the labor organization. This is not Mickens's first run-in with scandal. In 2015 he was accused of groping a sleeping woman in a federal civil lawsuit. A judge dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds following a UAW objection.
The UAW condemned Mickens's conduct as described by the federal government. A spokesman said that the alleged pay-offs occurred while he was working as an assistant to its organizer. The payments did not affect any negotiations between the union and Chrysler, according to to the spokesman.
"We are deeply disappointed by the illegal misconduct alleged in today’s charge against Keith Mickens," the spokesman said. "The scheme set out in the charge against Mr. Mickens did not affect the negotiation of the terms of our collective bargaining agreements or involve the loss of any union funds."
Mickens did not answer calls to his home from the Washington Free Beacon.
Four people have pled guilty to breaking federal labor laws prohibiting companies from bribing union officials as well as barring labor representatives from accepting personal rewards from company officials. In January former Fiat Chrysler vice president Alphons Iacobelli admitted to embezzling $1.5 million from the training center to line his own pockets, as well as pay off UAW officials. Iacobelli used the money to pay one senior UAW official's mortgage and also bought luxury items and first-class airfare for others "in an effort to obtain benefits, concessions, and advantages for FCA in the negotiation, implementation, and administration of the collective bargaining agreements between FCA and the UAW," the Department of Justice said in a release.
"Fiat Chrysler's most senior labor negotiator colluded with top UAW leaders for many years to illegally line UAW officials' pockets," said U.S. attorney Matthew Schneider following Iacobelli's plea. "Combatting corruption of this sort is one of our office's highest priorities, and these crimes of greed will not be tolerated in our district."
The bribery scandal has already taken its toll on the union's organizing plans. UAW lost an election at a Mississippi Nissan plant shortly after the charges were announced. Union opponents made the indictment the centerpiece of their argument against joining the United Auto Workers. UAW president Dennis Williams said the corruption charges damaged the union's election chances at Nissan, but said they did not represent the labor movement.
"As painful as these charges of criminal conduct have been for me and the entire union, I have never once questioned the fundamental integrity of our organization," he wrote in an August op-ed. "Those who committed these alleged crimes deserve to be brought to justice."
Fiat Chrysler did not respond to requests for comment about the scandal and the new charges against Mickens.
A Chrysler spokesman said the company had no knowledge of the scheme and said it has fully cooperated with federal investigators, pointing to a statement issued after charges were announced in July.
"The Company intends to pursue all potential legal remedies against Mr. Iacobelli and any other culpable parties," Chrysler said in the statement. "We remain committed to ensuring that the Company and its employees act in a manner consistent with high standards of legal compliance, ethics, integrity and quality."
Update March 14, 9:15 a.m.: This post has been updated with comment from a Chrysler spokesman.