DETROIT – A very big name in the United Auto Workers’ recent history is accused by the feds of stealing from union membership to pay for vacations.
Former UAW president Dennis Williams rose to prominence within the union, starting as secretary-treasurer in 2013. He became president the following year and held that role until 2018.
He is the 15th person charged the UAW corruption investigation -- a list that includes former president Gary Jones.
It was a year ago that the FBI raided Jones’ home in Canton and went into Williams’ home in California.
Williams is expected to plead guilty, same as Jones did, for stealing from union membership.
Williams is charged with one count of conspiracy to embezzle union funds. Prosecutors alleged he lived a lavish lifestyle with Jones and former Regional Director Vance Pearson at a sunny Palm Springs resort.
Court documents claim more than $22,000 in union money was used to rent a villa for Williams for a four-month period in 2016-17.
Williams allegedly had taken more that $71,000 in union money.
“The level of greed and disrespect and treatment of workers like they really don’t matter -- because you’ve decided to take their money and use it on cigars and booze and airfare and expensive lavish villas -- it’s disheartening,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider.
The UAW is looking to move on and released a statement that read:
“Any violation of Mr. Williams’ oath of office and his responsibility to oversee our members and their sacred dues money, should rightfully face criminal penalty. Today’s development is a sad day for UAW members, but it is also a humbling day of truth and justice demonstrating that no one is above the law.”
Schneider and current UAW president Rory Gamble continue their discussions around whether the feds will come in and take over the union. Schneider said he doesn’t want to run the union and that he wants the union to do that, but he needs to see changes, like in how the way presidents are chosen.
Jones was Williams’ choice and though he was elected it was baked into the cake before any convention.
The union recently said Williams repaid $55,000 in inappropriate travel expenses. Separately, the UAW is selling a lakefront house built for him at a union conference center in northern Michigan.