U.S. prosecutor calls on UAW to cooperate, probe may widen

DETROIT (Reuters) - The U.S. Attorney leading the investigation of corruption within the United Auto Workers (UAW) told Reuters on Friday the union’s leadership still is not fully cooperating with the government, but that individuals are giving federal investigators tips that could expand the probe.

FILE PHOTO: United Auto Workers (UAW) acting president Rory Gamble speaks to Reuters from his office in Southfield, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

“The deadline is now” for UAW leadership to be more open with investigators looking into corruption within the union, Matthew Schneider, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan said in an interview.

Schneider said a federal takeover of the UAW is among the options available, but the government’s investigation of individuals linked to misuse of union funds and other impropriety is his priority.

With more tips of possible UAW wrongdoing coming in from the public, Schneider said “we just don’t know” how long it will take to finish the investigation.

The UAW earlier this month installed Rory Gamble, former top union official at Ford Motor Co, as its new president after Gary Jones resigned. Jones has not been charged with wrongdoing, but federal agents searched his home this summer.

Schneider said the union’s so-called Article 30 document outlining the case for Jones’ removal as president contained information the Justice Department did not know.

“Reading the Article 30 charges and seeing information we didn’t know about, that’s not open and genuine cooperation,” Schneider said. “They’re saying we’ll respond to any question we’re asked. That’s not cooperation. Cooperation is much more than that.”

The UAW in a statement Friday said it is “disappointing that Mr. Schneider does not yet recognize the UAW’s sincere efforts at reform.” Citing financial reforms announced Dec. 2, the union said that as recently as two weeks ago it had “expressed a willingness to further work with the government on the issues of concern. And we continue to cooperate in providing the government any and all records requested.”

General Motors Co earlier this month filed a civil racketeering suit against rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, charging that Fiat Chrysler executives bribed UAW officials in order to win labor cost advantages over GM.

GM cited evidence from the Justice Department investigation in its brief. Fiat Chrysler has said it will fight GM’s charges and characterized them as an effort to slow the proposed merger of Fiat Chrysler and French automaker Peugeot SA.

The GM-Fiat Chrysler litigation does not affect the federal criminal investigation, Schneider said.

Reporting By Joe White; Editing by Chris Reese