Friday, June 30, 2006

UAW officials found guilty

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
UAW officials found guilty
A federal jury convicts two bosses of demanding unqualified men get jobs after a '97 Pontiac strike.
Paul Egan / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- A federal jury convicted two United Auto Workers officials Tuesday of conspiring to break labor laws and to extort favors from automaker General Motors Corp. in the midst of a bitter labor strike in Pontiac nine years ago.

Donny Douglas and Jay Campbell showed no emotion when a U.S. District Court jury returned the unanimous verdicts after a little more than a full day of deliberations.

The incidents that sparked the case date back to 1997, when the UAW went out on strike at GM's truck plant in Pontiac. The work stoppage involved 5,000 workers and lasted 87 days, costing GM hundreds of millions of dollars.

Douglas, an UAW International service representative, and Campbell, who is now retired but was a longtime shop committee chairman at the plant, demanded two unqualified men -- Campbell's son, Gordon Campbell and Todd Fante, the son of another UAW official -- be hired in high-paying skilled trades positions if the strike was to end, the court was told.

The trial that began June 1 continued the case's long legal history. The pair were first indicted in September 2002 after a four-year federal investigation. The charges were dismissed once, in 2003, when a judge found they did not constitute a violation of federal law. But in 2004, the 6th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the charges.

Harold Gurewitz, the lawyer who represented the union officials, said the case may now be appealed again.

"I am certainly disappointed with the verdict," said Gurewitz, adding that he respected the work of the jury, but strongly disagreed with the legal instructions the jurors received.

"No matter what the evidence, it doesn't add up to criminal conduct," he said.

Before launching an appeal, "we're going to ask the judge to review what has been done so far."

The two were released on bond and are to be sentenced by Judge Nancy Edmunds on Nov. 2.

A third count of mail fraud against each of the men was dismissed by the judge before the case went to the jury.

Reached by telephone Tuesday night at his home in Holly, Donny Douglas said he was weighing his options, including a possible appeal.

"I think we got a bad call from a jury that didn't look at all the facts," he said.

Douglas is set to retire Friday from his position at UAW's Solidarity House headquarters in Detroit. He is one of about 35,000 union workers to recently accept financial packages from GM to retire.

Douglas said he believes the jury was swayed by UAW members who testified on behalf of the prosecution.

"We had some UAW testimony that was totally inconsistent with what we had heard earlier," he said. "I think that tipped the scales."

Gregory Nash of Metamora, a former wood model maker at the Pontiac plant who sat through the entire trial, said he was pleased by the verdicts.

Nash said he is unhappy he lost his skilled job at the plant while unqualified people were being brought into skilled positions.

"They have obligations to the membership," Nash said of Douglas and Campbell, but instead they were focused on "getting family and friends in."

At one time, a third UAW official, William Coffey, had been charged in the case. Coffey died in 2003.

Spokespeople for GM and the UAW could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

A separate civil suit filed against GM and the UAW on behalf of 140 plant workers has been tossed out of court, according to Harold Dunne, the plaintiffs Livonia based lawyer.

You can reach Paul Egan at (313) 222-2069 or


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