December 20, 2017 / 9:10 PM / in a year

UPDATE 1-United Auto Workers head says U.S. training center probe is limited

(Adds UAW president's comment on investigation, paragraph 2; Ford comment, paragraph 10)

By Nick Carey

DETROIT, Dec 20 (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers is cooperating with a government investigation into allegations of embezzlement by union officials at training centers funded by U.S. automakers, the union's president said on Wednesday.

The probe was limited to a small group of people and would not affect remaining leadership, UAW President Dennis Williams said. He said the union is conducting its own investigation, led by outside attorneys and UAW general counsel Niraj Ganatra.

"I don't see no reason to have no cloud over anybody at this point," Williams told reporters at the union's Detroit headquarters. "We have spent the last several months under a magnifying glass, and rightly so."

In July, federal prosecutors accused a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV vice president of making $1.2 million in improper payments to a former union vice president and his wife. Four people have been charged in the Fiat Chrysler probe.

In November, General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co said they were cooperating with the U.S. Department of Justice investigation.

The UAW is preparing for an election next June to replace Williams. Top union officials have nominated Gary Jones, a UAW regional director, as president.

Williams said he did not expect a backlash from rank-and-file members.

"I feel very comfortable that our standing with the membership is the same," he said.

He expressed dissatisfaction with Ford over its decision to shift production of a future battery electric vehicle to Mexico to make room for self-driving vehicles at the company's Flat Rock, Michigan, plant.

A Ford spokesman said the company remains the top producer of U.S. vehicles and has more hourly U.S. workers than any other automaker.

The UAW has struggled to organize automakers and suppliers this year.

Workers at a Fuyao Glass Industry Group Co Ltd plant in southwestern Ohio voted heavily against union representation last month. The UAW also lost a bitterly contested vote at a Nissan Motor Co Ltd plant in Mississippi in August.

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board voted to make it harder to organize so-called micro unions made up of small groups of a company's employees, posing a fresh challenge.

Volkswagen AG is contesting the NLRB's recognition of a vote for UAW representation by roughly 160 skilled workers at its Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant.

Williams said that if the NLRB moved against the VW micro union, "we may have to go back to striking to get recognition." (Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

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