Norbert Jewell believed that he was overdue for a slice of the good life. For now, however, his life is not good. This Monday, August 5, Jewell, a former vice president of the United Auto Workers (UAW), was sentenced in Detroit federal court to 15 months in prison for accepting as much as $95,000 in bribes from officials of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in return for dropping certain union demands during contract talks held in 2015. He had been charged this March, pleading guilty in April. His conviction was the eighth resulting from 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 into the misuse of an estimated $4.5 million from the Chrysler-funded National Training Center.
Norbert Jewell, now 61, a resident of Swartz Creek (near Flint), Mich., headed the UAW’s Fiat Chrysler operations from 2014 until his retirement in January 2018. He was the union’s top person for negotiating and administering collective bargaining agreements with Chrysler and also was chairman of the Joint Activities Board of the National Training Center (NTC). Like his deceased predecessor, General Holiefield, Jewell illegally enriched himself through cash and noncash benefits provided by officials at company headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., most of all, former Chrysler Vice President Al Iacobelli. In exchange for these favors, he effectively agreed to tilt collective bargaining in favor of the automaker. This type of arrangement is barred under the Taft-Hartley Act. Union and Chrysler officials alike have asserted the bribes did not affect the outcome. Jewell retired soon after the Detroit News ran a story revealing that federal agents had raided his home. Up until that time, he had spent NTC funds on such sundry items as restaurant dinners, golf trips, concert tickets, a shotgun and a $25,000 private party.
Prosecutors are satisfied that justice, for now, has been done. “That shows where he (Jewell) placed his loyalty,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey to U.S. District Judge Paul Borman. “Not with (UAW) members and their families but with other high-level officials under investigation.” The investigation, it should be noted, may be far from wrapped up. One of the persons already convicted and sentenced, former Jewell aide Nancy Adams Johnson, has told investigators that former United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams directed subordinates to use funds from Detroit automakers’ training centers for union travel, meals and entertainment. “It’s an ongoing investigation and we’re not done,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider told reporters outside the courtroom Monday. The next several months could be revealing.