DETROIT — Senior UAW officials stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in union money to spend on luxury villas in Palm Springs, Calif., cigars, liquor, lavish meals, golf and other extravagances, federal authorities said Thursday after arresting one of the union’s board members on conspiracy and embezzlement charges.
Vance Pearson, a 17-year UAW employee who succeeded President Gary Jones as Region 5 director in Missouri last year, is among the current and former officials cited in an investigator’s affidavit as authorizing and concealing union-funded purchases of “luxury items and accommodations for their own personal benefit.”
Pearson, 58, is one of the few officials that prosecutors identified by name, as the others have not yet been charged with any crimes.
“Our highest priority is maintaining the trust and confidence of United Auto Worker members,” the UAW said in a statement issued late Thursday afternoon. “While these allegations are very concerning, we strongly believe that the government has misconstrued any number of facts and emphasize that these are merely allegations, not proof of wrongdoing. Regardless, we will not let this distract us from the critical negotiations underway with GM to gain better wages and benefits for the more the 400,000 members of our union.”
The new allegations emerged two days before the UAW’s contracts with the Detroit 3 automakers are set to expire and paint a gaudy picture of the union’s “upper echelon” living it up on members’ dues for months at a time under the auspices of attending conferences and participating in other business-related activities.