A disgraced union official may have to submit his ballot to the 2020 Democratic National Convention from prison.
Former United Auto Workers vice president Norwood Jewell became the highest ranking labor official to plead guilty to violating federal labor law. Jewell admitted to receiving luxury goods and lavish golf trips from the Chrysler executives he was supposed to be negotiating against. He is now staring at a possible five-year prison sentence, though the Detroit News has reported that prosecutors are seeking only 15 months of jail time.
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Even with the reduced sentence, Jewell may still be in federal prison when the Democrats' presidential nominating convention begins in Milwaukee. Jewell served as a superdelegate during the 2016 primary battle between Hillary Clinton and insurgent socialist senator Bernie Sanders. He is still listed as a DNC member on the Michigan Democratic Party's website with his term set to expire in 2020. Federal authorities announced indictments against top labor officials in 2017. Jewell, the UAW's lead negotiator for Chrysler, was implicated in the scandal in January 2018 and indicted in March 2019 before pleading guilty on Tuesday.
Neither the DNC nor the state party returned requests for comment about Jewell's status within the organization.
Republicans criticized Democratic leaders for maintaining ties with Jewell in the wake of the guilty plea. RNC spokesman Michael Joyce pointed to the fact that some of the allegations against Jewell took place even while he was serving as a party leader. While Jewell did not publicly announce his support in the Sanders-Clinton race, the superdelegate process was criticized by Sanders supporters for rigging the contest in Clinton's favor. Sanders won the Michigan primary 49.8 percent to 47.3 percent, but Clinton earned more delegates.
"Democrats are keeping someone who's headed to prison on their leadership team in Michigan, and it shows that corruption is alive and well within their ranks," Joyce said. "After all, these are the same people who rigged the 2016 primary election against Bernie Sanders."
The corruption probe has dealt a blow to UAW leadership for the past several years and led the union to begin adopting reforms to curb the appearance of conflicts of interest and corruption. It has emphasized its cooperation with federal probers throughout the process. The union said in a statement that "Jewell exhibited poor judgment" in his dealings with Chrysler executives.
"This is a troubling moment for our organization, and our members are appropriately angry and frustrated. Our members will always be our highest authority, and so we pledge to continue to change the way that we do business," the UAW said. "Our Clean Slate reforms are being implemented, and will be expanded. These reforms will make sure that transparency and accountability are at the forefront, and will bring this chapter to a close, once and for all."