Detroit Free Press: Marick Masters on UAW scandal

The scandal-ridden UAW plans to sell a cottage designated for ex-UAW President Dennis Williams as part of a series of ethics reforms announced Wednesday. The union, in an announcement by acting President Rory Gamble, issued a series of nationwide reforms, ranging from establishment of an ethics hotline to the creation of an independent ethics officer position. The reforms are part of a campaign by the union as it tries to regain the trust of members angered by the revelations of self-dealing by various leaders, which have been uncovered as part of the federal corruption probe. They could also be seen as an effort to forestall any possible federal intervention into the union. Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University, said Gamble should be commended for taking strong action to signal to the union's members that the kind of "mis- and malfeasance" represented by the scandal won't be tolerated, and the union is taking strong action to make sure it doesn't happen again. But Masters also noted that the scandal says a lot about the organization. He called the reforms a good start but said they're the minimum of what is needed. "The scandal reflects a cultural problem within the UAW, and that for whatever reason, a good deal of mis- and malfeasance was tolerated at the very highest level of the leadership for a very long time without anyone doing anything about it," Masters said. "I think there's clearly something that was a problem where they had leaders who were able to do things that were quite conspicuous in terms of taking extended trips to resort areas and using the union's money to do that without anything being mentioned about it." Masters said the way the union selects its top officers — as a slate of candidates presented at conventions for approval — could be a problem and asked whether it might be discouraging the kind of democracy the union wants. "I think they really need to take a look at whether they are an open enough union for dissent and disagreement," Masters said.

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