Former United Auto Workers Vice President Norwood Jewell has been sentenced to 15 months in prison as part of a far-reaching corruption scheme that involved siphoning money from a joint UAW-Fiat-Chrysler worker training center.
Jewell pleaded guilty in April to violating federal labor law when he used his training center credit card to pay for union expenses, including trips to California golf resorts, steakhouse dinners and parties.
“The parties included thousands of dollars in Fiat Chrysler money spent on 20 boxes of cigars, ultra-premium liquor, personalized bottles of wine, and women paid to light the cigars of senior UAW leaders,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.
Jewell’s lawyer tried unsuccessfully to argue to Judge Paul Borman during the sentencing hearing that his client should avoid jail time because he inherited a “culture of corruption” from his predecessor, former UAW-FCA Vice President General Holiefield. He compared Jewell repeatedly to the “captain of the Titanic,” someone who inherited a vessel with pre-existing flaws he couldn’t contain.
Detroit U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider dismissed that argument.
“Real heroes don’t allow corruption to continue. Heroes step into a situation, they see corruption, and they turn it around,” Schneider said.
Schneider said the investigation into the larger corruption scheme continues.
“It’s an ongoing investigation, and we’re not done. And we will continue to work on this until we’re confident we have leadership in the UAW that represents the men and women of the union, and does what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
Some UAW members felt Jewell showed little remorse at his sentencing. Jim Coakley, Vice President of UAW Local 961 in Marysville, said Jewell betrayed the union rank-and-file.
“He’s going to go do 15 months in a country club, and the harm he did to our membership is irreparable,” Coakley said.
Local 961 members blame Jewell for allowing their Fiat Chrysler axle plant to be sold to a supplier, and replaced by a workforce making lower wages. Jewell has steadfastly denied that his use of training center funds, which were supplied by FCA, influenced collective bargaining or any other union decision-making.
Jewell is the eighth UAW or FCA official to plead guilty in the corruption scheme.