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Detroit – United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams used his final Constitutional Convention here Monday to again distance the union from alleged corruption stemming from an ongoing federal investigation.

"To be clear: those who misallocated or misused training center funds betrayed our trust," the retiring president told thousands of union members gathered in Cobo Center. "The UAW has zero tolerance for corruption, wrongdoing, at any level of this organization."

His swift condemnation elicited thunderous applause from union members and delegates gathered for their quadrennial convention. Williams defended the 2015 collective bargaining agreement, as he has done in the past, saying it had not been compromised by the conspiracy between a now-deceased union vice president and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's top labor negotiator.

Williams outlined steps the union is taking to move beyond the ongoing federal investigation into the misuse of joint training center funds supplied by each of Detroit's three automakers. And he again rebuffed accusations from union members that dues were compromised.

"Let me remind you of something we discovered and already shared about the investigation: None of the misused training funds were UAW dollars or UAW funds," he said. "Period."

The union is changing policies, from credit card rules to blocking the donation of training center funds to UAW charities, Williams said. "Our response was to focus on the steps we could take to make sure this type of situation never happens again."

During this week's convention, the UAW is expected to elect accountant Gary Jones, of O'Fallon, Mo., as its next president. Jones, a former administrative assistant to the secretary-treasurer, will succeed Dennis Williams when he retires this month. 

In a statement on the UAW website, Williams said the union balanced its finances for three straight years and grew to 430,000 members. The UAW also made steady gains in profit sharing. 

The convention comes amid a federal corruption probe into the union's three joint-training centers. In addition to their investigation in the UAW-FCA National Training Center, federal investigators have issued subpoenas in recent months for information about training centers financed by General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. that are operated jointly with the union, sources familiar with the investigation said.

The investigation focuses on whether training funds were misappropriated, and if labor leaders at GM and Ford received money or benefits through their tax-exempt nonprofits — an allegation that emerged last summer involving FCA and General Holiefield, a former UAW vice president and head of its FCA department who died in 2015.

Earlier, Mayor Mike Duggan celebrated the progress of Detroit and the auto industry,  marking the start of the 37th UAW Constitutional Convention. It invites UAW members to elect officers, make constitutional amendments and debate policy. 

“In the last 10 years we’ve had some rough times,” Duggan said. “But right now the auto industry is coming back strong, the UAW is coming back strong and the city of Detroit is coming back strong. And if we keep fighting together, we’re going to end up stronger than ever.”

nnaughton@detroitnews.com

nterry@detroitnews.com

 

 

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