The Christian Science Monitor: James Martin on UAW’s public image

For the first time in its history, the UAW is negotiating a major contract while its leadership battles corruption charges. It is possible the scandal will lengthen the strike, emboldening both sides to take a harder line than they otherwise would at a time when the industry is flush with profits. It’s certainly distracting attention away from the pivotal nature of the talks, as the industry begins to focus on far-reaching technological changes that will transform car production in ways not seen since the rise of the internal combustion engine. The details emerging from the ever-widening federal probe, which so far has netted nine convictions and charges against two others for millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, have hurt the union’s reputation. First the investigation unearthed bribes from Fiat Chrysler America officials to UAW leaders. The focus this year has broadened to include leaders’ misuse of union funds. “It is a black eye,” says James Martin, a labor-relations expert at Wayne State University in Detroit. “The UAW had a squeaky clean image.”

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