Retired UAW Vice President Joe Ashton charged in bribery, kickback scandal

Ashton becomse 13th person charged in corruption investigation

DETROIT – Retired United Auto Workers Vice President Joe Ashton has been charged in connection with a bribery and kickback scandal. He is the 13th and highest-ranking person charged in the corruption investigation.

Ashton served as the UAW General Motors vice president from 2010 to 2014. He left the GM Board of Directors in 2017 after serving as the union representative.

Ashton has been charged in a scheme with his two closest associates -- Jeffrey Pietrzyk, who served on the CHR board with Ashton, and Michael Grimes, Ashton’s administrative assistant.

Federal officials said Ashton’s chiropractor had a business, and he asked the business to give a $250,000 loan to a construction company.

When the business gave the loan, the contractor defaulted on the note. Ashton suggested doing a custom UAW watch contract as a way to get the business paid, according to authorities.

Profits would pay off that loan and the contract was for just under $3 million, officials said.

Ashton had Pietrzyk rig the bid on the contract for $1 million more than it was worth, according to authorities. He then went to the business and demanded kickbacks on the watch contract, officials said.

Federal officials said Ashton collected $250,000 over several years from the business, with someone driving to his home to make the payoffs.

Ashton also made sure Grimes and Pietrzyk were in on the deal, authorities said. They’ve both pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

No date has been set for Ashton’s arraignment. He’s expected to plead guilty, officials said.

“Josh Ashton’s actions, as set forth in the government’s filings, are completely inexcusable and violate UAW’s longstanding standards of conduct put in place by former leaders, like Walter Reuther," acting UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement. “The UAW remains focused on negotiating and finalizing strong contracts for our members, especially during this round of auto negotiations.”

“GM is deeply disturbed by Joe Ashton’s alleged criminal conduct,” GM officials said in a statement. “GM was not aware of this illegal activity until it was recently revealed by the government’s investigation.”

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