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Union workers want dues back after bribery conspiracy

Auto Manufacturers
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Fiat Chrysler workers on the line

Three union workers at Fiat Chrysler are suing the automaker and the United Auto Workers over a bribery scheme.

They're seeking class-action status to represent all FCA hourly workers.

Federal prosecutors say Fiat Chrysler negotiators bribed UAW negotiators in order to get contract concessions and other benefits. So far, one former FCA official, Alphons Iacobelli, and one former UAW official, Virdell King, have pled guilty in the conspiracy. More indictments are expected.

Attorney Ray Sterling says workers should get at least four years' worth of union dues back, along with other damages.

"They were paying their officials all these years solely to be representing their interests," says Sterling, "and they find out that they're in the other side's pocket."

The lawsuit also alleges that because of the bribes, the union significantly overpaid FCA when it purchased equity from FCA, after the automaker emerged from bankruptcy protection.

UAW President Dennis Williams told union members last week the conspiracy was limited in scope, and did not corrupt contract negotiations in 2011 and 2015. In a letter to union members, he wrote:

That collective bargaining agreement passed through many hands, and its terms were reviewed, negotiated and approved at the highest level of our union, including the UAW president and ultimately the membership. In addition, the 2011 agreement – which Iacobelli suggests was influenced by his criminal actions – was in fact patterned after the agreements our union negotiated at Ford and General Motors. The 2015 agreement was among the richest for workers ever reached, even renegotiating a more generous profit sharing formula that recently produced $5,500 on average to every FCA worker. In fact, during bargaining in 2015, Iacobelli was not employed by FCA and had nothing to do with those contract negotiations. There’s just no truth to the allegation that the terms of the collective bargaining agreement were compromised by Iacobelli’s crimes.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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