UAW director Vance Pearson latest to resign amid federal corruption probe

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Another high-ranking United Auto Workers official has stepped down amid a federal investigation into corruption in the union.

UAW Region 5 Director Vance Pearson has resigned, according to a statement released by the union released Sunday. Pearson, 58, has been on paid leave since early October. He was charged in September with embezzlement of union funds, mail and wire fraud and money laundering.

"Pearson has informed the UAW that he was resigning as director of UAW Region 5, effective immediately, and retiring," the statement said. "He is also resigning his UAW membership, effective immediately."

The resignation marks the second high-ranking UAW official to step down amid a wide-ranging scandal involving the improper use of union funds.  UAW President Gary Jones announced his resignation last week. 

Pearson, Jones and former UAW President Dennis Williams are accused of embezzling more than $1 million in member dues that were spent on luxuries, including private villas, liquor, golf and cigars. Neither Jones nor Williams have been charged.

UAW President Gary Jones, left, and Region 5 Director Vance Pearson.

When asked about Pearson's resignation, his attorney Scott Rosenblum said in an email: "We wanted to focus on Mr. Pearson’s defense." 

Pearson met with prosecutors Nov. 12 in St. Louis "in order to determine whether any pre-indictment resolution could be reached," according to a filing Nov. 19 signed by Pearson's lawyer and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey.

Gary Jones resigns as UAW president, as union moved to expel him

The union's International Executive Board on Wednesday filed union charges against Jones and Pearson, which could have potentially removed them office following a union trial. Both men "directed the submission of false, misleading and inaccurate expense records to the UAW Accounting Department and further concealed the true information concerning those expenses, in violation of the UAW’s Ethical Practices Code and applicable federal labor laws," according to the board press release sent Wednesday. 

Jones announced his resignation that same day.

Pearson and Jones both come from the union's Region 5 office in St. Louis, Missouri. Jones was previously director of the 17-state region from 2012 until 2018 when he became president of the union, leading Pearson to take over leadership of the region after serving as Jones' assistant Region 5 director since January 2016.

Pearson was previously a Region 5 servicing representative responsible for collective bargaining, arbitrations and organizing.  He also had been a retiree representative, Community Action Program representative and the office manager of the region’s sub-regional office in Pico Rivera, California, according to his union biography. 

Staff writer Kalea Hall contributed