Joe Ashton is accused of getting 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.
Ashton was charged Wednesday with conspiracy. The case is filed in Detroit federal court as a "criminal information," which means a guilty plea is expected. Ashton is the 13th person to be charged in a federal investigation of the UAW and auto companies.
The identity of his lawyer wasn't immediately known.
Ashton was a powerful official who headed the UAW's General Motors department. He also was a member of the GM board.
Acting UAW President Rory Gamble responded to the news on Wednesday.
"Joe Ashton's actions, as set forth in the Government's filings, are completely inexcusable and violate UAW's long-standing standards of conduct put in place by former leaders like Walter Reuther. The UAW remains focused on negotiating and finalizing strong contracts for our members, especially during this round of auto negotiations," Gamble said in a statement.
UAW President Gary Jones was placed on paid leave last weekend after a key ally was charged.