House Republicans Call on Dems to Investigate Union Corruption

Letter: 'essential' to confront 'widespread, brazen lawbreaking by union leaders'

Rep. Virginia Foxx / Getty Images
September 20, 2019

Republican leaders called on House Democrats to investigate widespread corruption within the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, a longtime Democratic ally.

Reps. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.) and Tim Walberg (R., Mich.), top Republicans on the Education and Labor Committee, sent a letter Thursday to Chairman Bobby Scott (D., Va.) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee chairwoman Frederica Wilson (D., Fla.) urging a hearing to examine the ongoing UAW corruption scandal.

"Given this Committee's jurisdiction over the [Labor Management Relations Act] and other federal statutes governing labor-management relations, we believe it is essential the Committee confront the widespread, brazen lawbreaking by union leaders who purport to represent nearly 150,000 American autoworkers but have betrayed their trust in favor of self-enrichment," the letter said.

The letter comes as Scott attempts to advance the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019, a union wishlist bill that outlaws secret ballot elections and gives unions the ability to force objecting employees to pay for representation. Democrats failed to pass a similar proposal in 2009 despite controlling the House, Senate, and White House.

Scott has received $66,000 in UAW campaign contributions since 1992, while Wilson took in $40,000 since 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The letter said the legislation would benefit labor leaders rather than workers. Foxx and Walberg noted that the bill will significantly increase the coercive power of unions, while "decreasing their accountability" and "risking similar episodes of corruption and wrongdoing in the future."

A federal probe into allegations of UAW corruption has already led to nine guilty pleas. Union members allegedly spent $400,000 on private villas, $120,000 on golf outings, and $50,000 on parties featuring provocatively dressed women tasked with lighting cigars for UAW officials.

One top union official continues to attend bargaining negotiations with GM despite being charged with orchestrating a conspiracy to steal more than $1 million in union dues. UAW president Gary Jones is also implicated in the probe.

Foxx called the union's rampant misuse of funds "disgusting."

"The fact that UAW union leaders have spent workers' hard-earned union dues on sports care and strolling models is disgusting," Foxx told the Washington Free Beacon. "Democrats are pushing through legislation that will make shameful episodes of union corruption like we're seeing at the UAW even more common by further eroding unions' accountability and transparency."

Neither Scott nor Wilson returned requests for comment.

Scott's prioritization of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act comes at a time of century-low union membership. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10.5 percent of American workers are in unions. Members have split from organized labor at the ballot box in recent years. Despite endorsements from nearly every major union in 2016, Hillary Clinton won union voters by the narrowest margin of any Democrat since 1984.

Top Democrats, including former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), rushed to support the UAW despite the federal corruption probe after thousands of GM workers launched a strike on Monday. The three Democratic presidential candidates have received more than $100,000 in political donations from the union over the course of their careers.

The eventual Democratic nominee will no doubt rely on organized labor for support. An analysis found that unions gave more than $1.6 billion to left-wing political advocacy groups between 2010 and 2018.

Published under: House Democrats , Unions