The United Auto Workers has been accused of spending more than $1 million using union funds, according to a federal complaint filed in September.
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The complaint filed against former UAW Director Vance Pearson accuses former UAW President Gary Jones and other union officials of spending $60,000 on cigars and cigar paraphernalia between 2014 and 2018, including $13,000 spent at a single Arizona cigar shop in 2015, The New York Times reported Thursday.
That $60,000, however, was only a portion of the $1 million dropped on top-tier hotels, rounds of golf and golf gear and extravagant dinners complete with thousand-dollar bottles of Champagne from a "master account" meant for hospitality purposes, according to the complaint.
"There was a culture of corrupt activities spanning years. That’s what we’re trying to turn around," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, who is leading the UAW investigation, told the Times. "The purpose of the union is not to serve the leadership. It is to serve the members."
The allegations come on top of a separate investigation dating back to 2017 into former UAW President Dennis Williams' -- Jones' predecessor -- alleged misuse of millions of dollars in funds that were supposed to go toward a joint Fiat Chrysler-UAW training center for members. Instead, the money funded more lavish hotels and entertainment in Palm Springs, California the Times reported.
General Motors sued the union in November after a 40-day workers strike cost the company nearly $3 million, alleging that Fiat Chrysler bribed the UAW to give themselves an advantage over GM. Jones helped organize the strike just weeks after the FBI raided his home and found $30,000 in cash stashed away.
Williams and his team celebrated a 2015 labor negotiation with Fiat Chrysler that was eventually rejected by UAW members with a $7,000 dinner, according to the complaint.
Neither Jones, who resigned in November nor Williams has been charged. Pearson, who also resigned in November, faces six charges of embezzlement, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, the Detroit Free Press reported in September when the complaint was filed.
The scandal took off as the UAW was negotiating contracts with "The Big Three" auto companies including GM, Chrysler and Ford.