Virdell King wasn’t the main character in the self-dealing among certain officials of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and the United Auto Workers. But she may be headed for a brief stretch behind bars anyway. On November 13, Ms. King, a former contract negotiator for the UAW, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to two months in prison plus a year of supervised release for her receipt of tens of thousands of dollars from the till of the company’s National Training Center (NTC) in return for a promise to drop certain union demands during collective bargaining a few years ago. She also was ordered to pay a $5,500 fine and a $100 special assessment. The sentencing follows a joint probe 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 provided continuous coverage of this case in which Chrysler officials, led by now-convicted Vice President Al Iacobelli, provided several union officials with NTC funds to discourage them from raising certain issues during contract talks in 2015. This sort of quid pro quo long has been illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act. The scandal, whose misappropriated funds are estimated at $4.5 million, also involved embezzlement and tax fraud. At least five participants already have been sentenced. Virdell King can be added to the list. King, now 66, a resident of Detroit, had been charged with bribery conspiracy in mid-August 2017, and pleaded guilty later that month. According to a superseding information, King, while as a member of the United Auto Workers collective bargaining team, purchased more than $40,000 in personal luxuries through National Training Center credit charges with the encouragement of Iacobelli. When Iacobelli, along with UAW Vice President General Holifield and the latter’s wife, Monica Morgan, were indicted last July, a charge against King was almost inevitable.
Virdell King was somewhat contrite at sentencing, but expressed the view that her wrongdoing should not disrupt a proud union legacy. “I truly apologize for disappointing you,” she stated, “but I thank you for allowing all the good work I’ve done as a fighter in the labor movement and not letting this lapse in judgment speak for me.” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey was less forgiving. “Instead of being focused on zealous representation of the rank and file union members and their families,” he noted, “King was interested in buying clothes and lavish meals for herself and others.” King, for her part, won’t have to report to prison for her two-month sentence for another six months. And by further assisting prosecutors, it is possible that she might avoid prison altogether.