FBI Raids May Signal The UAW Could Face Federal RICO Suit

UAW President Gary Jones. Source: UAW

The FBI Raids on the homes of the UAW’s top officers may indicate a RICO lawsuit may be coming for the entire union.

A federal investigation into corruption within the United Auto Workers that began during the Obama administration exploded onto the national news on Wednesday as FBI agents raided six locations in four states (Michigan, California, Missouri and Wisconsin).

The locations including the homes of the union’s current UAW president Gary Jones and former UAW president Dennis Williams.

The raids “uncovered evidence including ‘wads’ of cash and files that could bolster federal investigations into UAW leaders spending dues paid by blue-collar workers on personal luxuries, vacations and private villas in Palm Springs, California,” reported The Detroit News

On Thursday, The Detroit News reported that the raids raises the specter that the case may be heading toward a federal lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Raids at the homes of some of the United Auto Workers’ top leadership Wednesday amplify the possibility the federal government could assume oversight of the union under anti-racketeering statutes.

The case for federal oversight of a union typically involves criminal implications of current leadership, experts say. And a move to file a civil racketeering lawsuit would reflect the government’s belief that the UAW is corrupt and the situation has not improved despite a four-year investigation that has led to eight convictions, including former union officials and executives from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

“This is the nuclear option,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.

Filing a RICO case against the UAW would not be a first for a labor union.

In the late 1980s, the U.S. Justice Department sued the International Brotherhood of Teamsters under the RICO statutes, stating the union’s executive board was wholly controlled by organized crime.

The Teamsters settled the suit by allowing federal oversight of the union. The oversight lasted more than two decades, ousted hundreds of corrupt union leaders, and cost union members hundreds of million of dollars.

In the UAW’s case, however, Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at Ann Arbor’s Center for Automotive Research, and other experts told The Detroit News that government oversight requires proof of much deeper corruption of an organization than has been shown at the UAW to date.

Wednesday’s raids may have changed all of that, though.



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