Chicago — Federal agents on Wednesday descended on the homes of top officials with one of the nation's largest unions. FBI raids on the homes of Gary Jones — the current president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Dennis Williams his immediate predecessor — signaled a dramatic escalation of a four-year probe into illegal payments to union officials.
The corruption investigation has so far led to the convictions of eight people linked to the UAW and to Fiat-Chrysler involving bribes and kickbacks designed to influence the nation's sixth largest union's bargaining position at contract talks with automakers.
Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, explained what's next in the case.
"Prosecutors are going to look at everything that they get and make a real effort to see if there were payoffs to the top leadership of the United Auto Workers," Henning said. "And if there were, that could be a disaster not only for the UAW, but also for the automakers."
In all, the FBI raided six locations in four states: Michigan, California, Missouri and Wisconsin. These operations could undermine the confidence of nearly 160,000 UAW members in their negotiating team at the beginning of a new round of contract talks.
"Obviously something is going on and it needs to be cleaned up, period," UAW employee Joseph Johnson said.
The UAW said Wednesday that it has already fully cooperated with investigators and that there was absolutely no need to use search warrants. Fiat-Chrysler had no comment.