By Breana Noble and Robert Snell, The Detroit News
The United Auto Workers is investigating allegations of sexual harassment against a member of its governing International Executive Board who is director of the region overseeing Indiana and Ohio, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
Richard Rankin, director of Region 2B, the people said, is the subject of an independent investigation into his interactions with members of Local 2213, which represents professional registered nurses in Toledo.
Latonya McDonald-Greenlee, Local 2213’s vice president, told The Detroit News she was “not at liberty to make a statement,” but when asked to sum up the allegations against Rankin, she said it was “conduct unbecoming an officer.”
In a statement, the UAW confirmed it has hired an outside investigator to “look into the allegations of discrimination and harassment in Region 2B” and is “awaiting the results of that investigation.” It also is conducting a review of an internal complaint on those issues.
“The UAW takes claims of sexual harassment and discrimination very seriously. We strongly believe in fostering a workplace that is free from intimidation, retaliation, and harassment of any kind,” the statement said. “If we find that there was misconduct in the workplace, we will take appropriate corrective action.”
No actions in connection to the allegations and investigation have been taken in the region so far.
The news, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, comes as the federal government continues a five-year corruption investigation into the union that reaches its top officials, including last week charging former UAW President Gary Jones. Prosecutors have said the probe, which has led to 13 convictions for bribery, embezzlement, racketeering and more, could result in federal oversight of the union.
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Rankin was elected to director of Region 2B during a special meeting of delegates in June 2017. He was elected to serve his first full four-year term in June 2018.
He became a UAW member in 1997 when he began working at General Motors Co.’s Lordstown Assembly Assembly plant in northeast Ohio. He also previously worked at a Lear Corp. seating plant in the community and held several positions in the local and the region. Rankin could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
Former UAW President Dennis Williams, who also is implicated in the federal probe, announced a hard stance on sexual harassment in late 2017 following a New York Times report on years of sexual harassment at two Ford Motor Co. plants in Chicago.
“Let me be very clear about this: the UAW has a policy of no tolerance — zero tolerance — when it comes to sexual harassment,” Williams said. “Working men and women have to understand that people ought to be able to go to the workplace without being harassed for any reason whatsoever.”
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