Another Defendant in UAW-Chrysler Training Fund Scandal Pleads Guilty

As a player in the scandal, Keith Mickens was a minor figure. But his conviction is satisfying to prosecutors all the same. On April 5, Mickens, a former United Auto Worker official, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to conspiracy for helping to funnel UAW-Chrysler National Training Center payments to union officials in return for the union dropping certain collective bargaining issues. He, like the other defendants, also spent portions of the payoffs on personal items. Mickens is the sixth person to be charged, and the fifth to be convicted, in the $4.5 million scheme, which broke wide open last July. The latest action follows a joint investigation by the FBI, the IRS and the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.

Union Corruption Update has given regular coverage to this web of deceit that has caused genuine embarrassment to both the United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). The prime culprits were Chrysler Vice President Al Iacobelli, now-deceased UAW Vice President General Holiefield, and Holiefield’s wife, Monica Morgan. Iacobelli and Morgan pleaded guilty, respectively, this January and February (Morgan’s conviction was for tax fraud). Former Chrysler official Jerome Durden and former UAW negotiator Virdell King pleaded guilty last August. And this March, a former union official, Nancy Johnson, was hit with a superseding indictment for accepting bribes. Each used training center cash to splurge on the good life. The practice of an employer bribing a union official in return for not pushing certain contract demands long has been illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act.

Keith Mickens, now 64, a resident of Clarkston, Mich., during 2010-14 was a senior Auto Workers official who administered collective bargaining agreements on behalf of members employed by Fiat Chrysler. He also could be bought. According to prosecutors, Mickens helped transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars from Fiat Chrysler to General Holiefield. FCA executives, led by Al Iacobelli, laundered these payments via the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center bank account. Mr. and Mrs. Holiefield used their share of the money to support two enterprises she controlled and to buy luxury items. For his part, Mickens admitted that he bought about $7,500 in clothing, electronics and other personal items.

Mickens faces a maximum of five years at sentencing, set for this August, but U.S. District Judge Paul Borman has indicated that the sentence will not exceed 27 months. Prosecutors are confident Mickens, like the other convicted defendants, has received his measure of justice. U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider explained: “Today’s conviction is the latest in a string of senior UAW officials who took secret and prohibited payments from the company they were supposed to be negotiating against. The hard-working rank and file members of the UAW deserve better from those who represent their interests.”