(Reuters) - The United Auto Workers international executive board on Thursday named acting president Rory Gamble to head the union until June 2022 as he pledged a series of reforms following a criminal investigation into illegal payoffs that has rocked the union.
Last month, Gary Jones resigned after 17 months in office as the union moved to remove him. He was linked to an ongoing federal corruption investigation by U.S. prosecutors that has so far seen 11 people plead guilty. Jones has not been charged.
Gamble has announced a number of reforms to clean up the union as he works to avoid a possible U.S. government takeover. The union will meet in June 2022 to select a new president.
“There are difficult decisions that will need to be made in the coming months for our members. But I promise one thing, when I retire and turn over this office, we will deliver a clean union on solid footing,” Gamble, 64, who led negotiations this year on a new contract with Ford Motor Co, said in a statement.
Since Gamble took over as acting president last month, he has made a number of reforms including new financial controls, a new outside audit and stronger financial management practices.
On Wednesday, former UAW vice president Joseph Ashton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud.
Ashton, a former General Motors Co board member, was charged last month with conspiring with other union officials to receive “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
The FBI has been conducting an investigation into illegal payoffs to UAW officials by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). The widening probe raises questions about whether the U.S. government might seek to take over the UAW.
In addition, the federal probe led GM last month to file a racketeering lawsuit against FCA, accusing its rival of bribing UAW officials to gain advantages, costing GM billions of dollars. FCA, which is working on a planned merger with France’s PSA, brushed off the suit as meritless.
UAW membership has plummeted 75 percent since 1979 and now stands at about 400,000. The UAW has failed for two decades to organize foreign automaker plants in the United States despite repeated efforts.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama