SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (FOX 2) - The acting president of the United Auto Workers said Wednesday that a corruption scandal plaguing the union will get worse before it gets better, but that he's confident he can fix the mess and turn over a clean house to the next leader.
Acting UAW President Rory Gamble admits he feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. The 64-year-old was appointed just a few days ago and is already navigating the waters. With membership dipping, Ford workers ratifying a tentative deal, and former UAW President Gary Jones taking a leave of absence amid corruption allegations, he admits he feels angry.
"I'm angry about those folks who are betraying their oaths of office," Gamble says.
Included among those are now retired UAW Vice President Joe Ashton. He's accused of receiving thousands of dollars in kickbacks from a contractor who made watches for union members. The 58,000 watches are still in storage five years later.
"If he's found to be guilty of those charges, then he might have a lot of people like myself we're going to feel very disappointed," Gamble said.
Count among those the 400,000 UAW members who voiced their frustrations online:
"Time for a change at the top."
"Terminate no paid leave."
"Shame on all of you."
Those are just some of the comments posted to the UAW Facebook page following the charges filed against Ashton.
"It's disheartening. But in America, we'll hard-pressed - I am not downplaying playing anything that's going on here - but corruption permanent every organization in America," Gamble said.
However, the UAW has lost about 35,000 members - just in the last year.
"No, we've had membership decreasing way before the corruption case came up," Gamble said.
Nevertheless, President Gamble is happy that the new contracts with GM and Ford will dedicate billions of dollars to new job development here in this country. He's also proud that he is the first African-American to lead the UAW. But does he want what the job- permanently?
"Next convention I am retiring very happily, enjoying my grandbabies and keep supporting and praying for my union," Gamble said.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.