The scandal-plagued, Democratic-linked United Auto Workers union — which is currently on strike — appears to have suffered its first scalp in the federal government’s war against its long-standing corruption.
On Friday, the union placed one of its top regional directors, Vance Pearson, on leave as per federal allegations of embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, and more.
“The sole focus of the International Union, UAW, is to act in the best interest of the more than 400,000 UAW members across this country. We take all allegations seriously. For that reason, as of October 4, 2019, Vance Pearson began a leave of absence from the IUAW,” the union announced in a statement obtained by the Detroit Free Press.
Pearson headed a 17-state region that reportedly ranged from Missouri to California. Pearson also reportedly served on the union’s international executive board.
“Vance Pearson was elected Region 5 director at the 37th Constitutional Convention in June 2018,” his still-active biography on UAW’s official website reads. “Prior to that, he served as the region’s assistant director following an appointment in January 2016 by Region 5 Director Gary Jones.”
His sudden leave comes only about a month after agents with the FBI and Internal Revenue Service raided the properties of multiple UAW officials in late August as part of a nationwide corruption probe.
“Federal agents expanded an investigation of corruption within the U.S. auto industry Wednesday by raiding locations in four states, including the suburban Detroit home of United Auto Workers President Gary Jones and the California home of former President Dennis Williams,” The Detroit News reported at the time.
Also targeted were a UAW retreat in northern Michigan and the Wisconsin home of Williams’ former top aide, Amy Loasching.
While there were no arrests or charges filed at the time, the materials discovered by federal officials — including suspicious “wads” of cash and files — were expected to lead to arrests soon after.
Below is footage of agents carrying suspicious bags and boxes from Jones’ home:
Pearson popped into the picture about two weeks later, when he was arrested and charged as per the same probe.
“Vance Pearson, 58, of St. Charles, Missouri, faces six charges that accuse him of embezzlement of union money, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy,” the Detroit Free Press reported at the time. “The allegations against Pearson involve the regional office that was once led by current UAW President Gary Jones, whose home, along with that of his predecessor, Dennis Williams, was raided last month.”
These raids and arrests are part of a federal operation that’s been active since 2017, according to the Associated Press.
“Since 2017, eight people have pleaded guilty in an investigation of union officials and Fiat Chrysler executives enriching themselves with money from a job training center in Detroit,” the AP notes.
The probe reportedly widened in mid-August “when a former UAW official was charged with accepting kickbacks from union vendors.”
The UAW has extensive ties to the Democrat Party.
As of October, the union had already contributed $121,122 toward the upcoming 2020 presidential election — all of it to either Democrat organizations, Democrat congressional candidates or Democrat presidential candidates, according to data by Open Secrets.
Of the presidential candidates, Pete Buttigieg has received $428, Joe Biden has received $225, Julian Castro has received $27 and Beto O’Rourke has received $5. It’s unclear why UAW hasn’t also donated to the second-top leading candidate, Elizabeth Warren.
Not since 2010 has the organization contributed a dollar to a Republican candidate. That year the organization reportedly gave $16,850 to Republicans, i.e., exactly one percent of its total contributions for the 2010 midterm elections.
Despite the flurry of recent charges and arrests, Democrats reportedly continue to associate publicly with the UAW’s leadership team
“Democratic officials aren’t at the point of avoiding public appearances with union leaders, as several marched in last Monday’s Labor Day parade in Detroit that included Jones,” The Detroit News pointed out in early September.
Meanwhile, some union members have described the federal probe of the union as a “witch hunt.” Take David Parnell Jr., a GM Flint Assembly Plant worker.
“He suspects the federal government waited until Jones was president to go after him in an effort to seize control of the union,” The Detroit News reported.
“Why didn’t you go after him when he was a regional director?” he reportedly asked.
Another member, Chris Fiebig, said he’s “totally” supportive of the union but does have some “deep concerns” about the alleged corruption.
“We have the international president under investigation and we’re hoping it doesn’t hurt the contract negotiations,” he said. “I think the timing was pretty bad.”
UAW has been negotiating with several auto manufacturers.
In mid-September, 48,000 UAW members launched a strike against General Motors. Several candidates have participated in the strike, including Warren and Bernie Sanders.
, .@ewarren & many of the other savages running for President are joining the #UAWStrike. I wonder if they plan on telling them about how the #GreenNewDeal will kill all of their jobs or how #MedicareForAll will kill union healthcare plans?pic.twitter.com/v6feqdcCV2
— Brian Quinn (@BrianQuinn1776) September 28, 2019
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