Federal investigators are looking into whether UAW bosses ‘extorted’ union staffers into paying into a ‘flowers fund,’ then pocketed the money.
DETROIT, MI—As the federal government’s probe into corruption within the United Auto Workers continues, investigators are also reportedly investigating whether or not UAW bosses were extorting staff into putting money into a “flowers fund” which would then be pocketed by the union bosses.
Flower funds are funds unions set up “to pool voluntary contributions from union members for funeral flowers and to finance union election campaigns,” as explained by the Detroit News, and have been prone to misuse by union bosses since (at least) the 1950s.
In the UAW’s case, it may have gone beyond the mere pocketing of money, however.
Investigators are questioning whether UAW leaders threatened to send high-level staffers back to the assembly line if they failed to contribute to so-called flower funds controlled by union presidents, vice presidents and regional directors, three sources familiar with the investigation said.
“This could be explosive and really damaging within the UAW,” said Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan business professor. “This positions the union not as the workers’ friend but as a big powerful thing that would extort money from its own members.” [Emphasis added.]
The UAW is denying that staffers were required to pay into the union’s “flowers fund.”
“No UAW employee was or is forced or compelled to contribute to any ‘flower fund,'” UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg wrote in a statement. “Participation has always been voluntary and at the discretion of the individual.”
The statement does not, however, address the question as to whether funds were misused.
This may be relevant as Federal investigators are also reportedly looking into “UAW officials’ use of almost $1 million of membership dues on condominiums, liquor, food and golf” at a resort in Palm Springs, where former Region 5 Director-turned-UAW president Gary Jones (who replaced former UAW president Dennis Williams—who is also under investigation) held his annual conferences.
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