Mar 30, 2020
UAW President Rory Gamble recently offered to meet with the U.S. Attorney who is leading the federal government’s investigation into corruption in the union. It is not clear, at this point, what this meeting will lead to. But it IS clear that the federal government intends to continue its attack on the UAW, weakening not only the UAW, but the whole labor movement.
The federal government has been investigating the UAW for nearly 5 years. The actual indictments have been few and far in-between. But every couple weeks, leaks from the federal prosecutor throw out another detail to the media. Certain parts of the media, like the right-wing Detroit News, take that one detail and tell the same whole story, over and over again. They have worked to create the perception that every leader in the UAW is corrupt, from top to bottom, when the truth is that only a few have been indicted. The feds even called in the media for a made-for-TV spectacular raid on the houses of then-President Gary Jones and former president Dennis Williams. They timed this to happen just days before the UAW national contract with auto expired.
During the years of the government’s investigations, Gamble was never named or linked to any part of the corruption investigation. But almost as soon as he assumed the UAW presidency and began to work against what corruption did exist, the federal government leaked to news media that Gamble was being investigated. And the media keeps repeating that Gamble is under investigation, even though in the months since, no charges have been filed against Gamble and there have been no concrete details of any wrongdoing. Nothing there, but they created a perception of guilt.
Is it any surprise that there would be some UAW leaders who took advantage of their positions to put money in their own pockets? This society itself is corrupt. The head of the Justice Department, which is investigating the UAW, was appointed by the big boss himself, Donald Trump. And Trump has openly used the presidency to enrich his own hotels and resorts. The whole society is corrupt. The whole UAW is not.
UAW members have every reason to want to see an end to corruption in their union, including the removal of any leaders they decide were guilty of these charges. But this is something that workers have the power to take care of themselves—if they are active in their union. And this kind of organized activity by the workers would make the UAW stronger to deal with what the unions need to do, which is to defend the interests of the workers against attacks by the corporations.
The federal government has a whole different reason for investigating the UAW and pressuring the union leadership. Its real goal is not to root out corruption, but rather to gain some control over the UAW. And there’s a reason for that. We live in a time period when the corporations have been pushing and want to go on pushing to take more from the workers. Any union, even as weak as the unions are today, is a threat that could slow the bosses’ money grab. The UAW strike against GM last fall is not what the bosses want to see.
Maybe some UAW members are hoping that the government will be “reasonable” and just step in to clean up some corruption and make a better union.
But there is no reason for any of us to believe that will happen. None.
Auto workers should remember what happened with the Teamsters 30 years ago. There was corruption among some Teamster leaders, even more so than what we see today in the UAW. The government threatened these leaders with substantial jail time and got them to consent to a federal government takeover. The government then let most of the corrupt Teamster leaders walk away. But it used its control over the union to get rid of the Teamster president who had led a militant and well-known strike at UPS. The Teamsters have been a weakened union ever since. And the corporations who employ Teamster workers have taken advantage, increasing their profits at the workers’ expense.
The government’s goal is to do the same thing to the UAW. The government serves the interests of the corporations, the bankers and the wealthy in this society. It’s always been true, it’s still true.
Workers can have confidence only in themselves.