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Amid corruption probe, UAW agrees to extend talks with Ford and FCA, but GM strike is possible. | Law and order

DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union agreed to temporary contract extensions with Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Friday as it grappled with a federal corruption probe that has implicated its president.

But a Saturday midnight deadline for the UAW to agree on a new four-year labor contract with General Motors currently remains in place, a union spokesman said.

The contract extensions were confirmed Friday by UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg, who declined further comment on the talks.

The union has picked GM as the target company, meaning it is the focus of bargaining and would be the first company to face a walkout. GM’s contract with the union is scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

A strike could idle GM’s assembly plant in Wentzville, where union workers make Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickup trucks.

It’s possible that the four-year GM contract also could be extended or a deal could be reached, but it’s more likely that 49,200 UAW members could walk out of GM plants as early as Sunday because union and company demands are so far apart.

Picket line schedules already have been posted near the entrance to one local UAW office in Detroit.

The contract talks come as the union faces an expanding federal corruption probe that snared a top official on Thursday.

Vance Pearson, head of the union’s regional office in Hazelwood, was charged with corruption in an alleged scheme to embezzle union money and spend cash on premium booze, golf clubs, cigars and swanky stays in California. It’s the same region that UAW President Gary Jones led before taking the union’s top office last year.

In a 40-page criminal complaint, the government alleged that more than $600,000 in UAW money was spent by union officials at businesses in the Palm Beach, California, area, including at restaurants, a golf resort, cigar shop and rental properties, between 2014 and 2017.

A source familiar with the matter on Friday identified two unnamed figures in the complaint — “Official A” and “Official B” — as Jones and his predecessor, former UAW president Dennis Williams.

The UAW did not make any comment on the report implicating Jones and Williams.

Neither Jones nor Williams have been charged with any wrongdoing.

The union had hoped to put the growing federal probe behind it by electing Jones as president in 2018.  

But two weeks ago, the FBI raided Jones’s home, a union retreat and multiple other locations, including the offices of Region 5, as part of the corruption probe.

The federal complaint filed on Thursday said government agents had seized $30,000 in cash from the residence of “Official A.”

An attorney for Jones could not be reached for comment on Friday.

But the union said on Thursday after the complaint was filed that it believed the government had “misconstrued” facts.

If there is a strike, it would be the union’s first since a short one against GM in 2007.

Negotiators are usually tight-lipped about the talks, but a week ago, Vice President Terry Dittes wrote in a letter to local union leaders that GM has been slow to respond to union proposals. GM answered in a letter sent to factories that said it is moving as quickly as it can.

“We are working hard to understand and respond to UAW proposals and we have offered to meet as often as needed,” the letter said.

The Associated Press, Reuters and the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.


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