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Cleaning Up the United Auto Workers

Former UAW president Gary Jones in 2019


Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The United Auto Workers union is notoriously corrupt, but is there a glimmer of reform hope? Some one million active and retired union members began voting this week on a weeks-long referendum to directly elect their leaders.

Under the current process, local chapters select delegates, who in turn choose who serves on the UAW’s governing international executive board. This has produced a network of cronies with little accountability to the broader membership. The referendum is part of a consent decree the federal government reached with the union this year after an investigation led to the criminal conviction of 11 senior UAW officials and others.

Direct election may not end corruption, but it can’t do much worse. Former UAW president

Gary Jones

admitted that he and other officials used union funds to pay for boxes of cigars, cases of wine, premium liquor and custom golf clubs, among other expenses. Former UAW president

Dennis Williams

confessed that union dough covered his trips to a Palm Springs, Calif., villa, and rounds at the nearby Indian Canyons Golf Resort.

Alphons Iacobelli,

the former vice president for employee relations at Fiat Chrysler, admitted diverting money from a fund that was supposed to finance worker training. Instead, the money paid off “the mortgage on the personal residence of a UAW Vice President” and provided “personal travel, designer clothing, cases of custom-labeled wine, furniture, jewelry, and custom-made watches” to union officials, according to Mr. Iacobelli’s plea agreement. The gifts were part of an effort to help the company in negotiations with the union.

Annual union disclosures required by the Labor Department can help the union rank-and-file examine questionable expenditures. The referendum will give them a chance to throw the scoundrels out.

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