The New York Times is out with its own deep-dive into the graft and influence peddling that is at the heart of an ongoing federal investigation into a scandal at the United Auto Workers union. And it uncovers a litany of eye-popping details, including spending more than $13,000 at a cigar store, $6,500 on a steak-and-champagne dinner and around $1 million in union money spent at a golf resort in Palm Springs, California.
But the piece sheds new light on the roles of two former UAW presidents, Dennis Williams and Gary Jones, who have been implicated but not charged by federal prosecutors in the ongoing investigation, and on a controversial regional UAW office in Missouri where Jones began his rise in power.
Williams, a former welder, oversaw the UAW as president from 2014 to 2018. Jones, whom Williams supported to succeed him, resigned as president in November after leading the union in a strike against General Motors. Jones was a former Ford factory worker turned UAW accountant and senior aide until 2004, when he became assistant director of the union’s Region 5, which was based in Hazelwood, Missouri and sprawled to the west coast.
There, he worked under Jim Wells, the region’s longtime director, who the Times said was known for his ability to shake down members and staffers for money, including pressuring staffers to purchase $1,000 Region 5 jackets every four years to help his re-election campaign. Prosecutors allege that Jones, who succeeded Wells as regional director in 2012, personally benefited from the financial shenanigans established by his predecessor and established a “master account” to pay the union’s hospitality expenses. Much of the spending was meant to curry favor with Williams, whom he wanted to succeed as UAW president.
Williams, who told his colleagues he was a socialist despite his apparent luxury tastes, wanted the union to organize in higher education and the technology sector, including at Tesla. By contrast, Jones was more conservative and blocked an organizing effort at the University of California system, reportedly because he viewed adding members in higher ed as a threat to his power base among blue-collar workers. Nevertheless, Williams supported Jones for president in 2018.