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By Jaclyn Diaz
Former Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli is “a crook and liar,” and his claims about giving union leaders money and gifts to influence contract negotiations are false, the UAW said Jan. 26.
Iacobelli admitted in a Jan. 22 plea agreement that he delivered $1.5 million in prohibited payments to union leaders during his tenure as a labor negotiator for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, from 2008-2015. The money was meant for the FCA-United Auto Workers National Training Center.
The plea confirmed for the first time that the payments were intended to get union negotiators to agree to concessions for the auto company during negotiations. FCA and the UAW negotiated two contracts during that time, in 2011 and 2015.
The union reaffirmed its earlier comments that collective bargaining was not affected by the scheme, despite Iacobelli’s assertions in the plea agreement that he tried to do so. Iacobelli pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act and one count of subscribing a false tax return.
“There’s just no truth to the allegation that the terms of the collective bargaining agreement were compromised by Iacobelli’s crimes,” UAW President Dennis Williams said in an open letter to membership.
David F. DuMouchel, Iacobelli’s attorney, declined to comment.
The money and gifts given to union officials included designer clothing, cases of custom-labeled wine, furniture, and jewelry. The funds were also used to pay off the mortgage of now-deceased UAW Vice President General Holiefield. Holiefield’s widow, Monica Morgan, is also facing charges related to the scheme and reportedly intends to plead guilty, Williams said in his letter.
“The fact that Mr. Holiefield and others allowed themselves to be corrupted by Mr. Iacobelli was and is a terrible betrayal of our union’s trust,” Williams said. “But there is simply no truth to the claim that this misconduct compromised the negotiation of our collective bargaining agreement or had any impact on union funds.”
“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,” he said.
It’s unlikely that collective bargaining was influenced by bribes, Susan J. Schurman, a professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University, told Bloomberg Law. She has worked with the UAW in the past.
Multiple people are involved in the bargaining process, she said. Local members elect bargaining representatives for these negotiations, the highest union officials took part in bargaining in 2011 and 2015, and local members had to vote on the final agreements, she said.
But if the rank-and-file members suspect that collective bargaining was altered by this scheme, there will be “a huge clamor to redo the contract,” she said.
“If the rank and file believe they were not well served, you will hear about it,” she said.
Iacobelli said in court documents that he sent an email to an unnamed FCA executive in December 2013 confirming Holiefield had been “scripted” in advance of a scheduled meeting with other members of the union’s international executive board. Holiefield would “create a dialogue pursuant to our outline,” according to the court documents.
Iacobelli also said in the plea agreement that he and other FCA employees offered to pay $50,000 to select UAW officials under the guise of a “one-time non-precedent setting” retirement offer. This money was to be kept secret from UAW members, according to Iacobelli’s plea.
“What Iacobelli’s plea agreement fails to disclose is that these proposed retirement payments were reviewed by UAW legal counsel, immediately rejected by me and never paid to anyone,” Williams said.
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