JEFFERSON CITY — State Auditor Nicole Galloway says she has the backs of striking United Auto Workers at a time when top officials at the labor organization are fighting a widespread federal corruption probe.
The UAW has contributed $105,000 to a political action committee that is raising money for the Democrat’s 2020 bid for governor amid the federal investigation and an ongoing strike that is in its fifth week.
Asked whether she is concerned about the PAC accepting money because of the probe, a spokesman for the campaign said Galloway is pleased the workers are supporting her.
“The UAW is thousands of working families right here in Missouri. These UAW members are entering a fifth week on strike, to protect wages and benefits for their own families and other working families throughout our state,” spokesman Eric Slusher told the Post-Dispatch.
Union workers at plants like the Wentzville truck and van factory are earning $275 a week in strike pay — recently bumped up from $250 — picketing for better wages and benefits.
At the same time more than 4,000 workers walked off the job in Wentzville last month, a federal complaint was filed against Vance Pearson, 58, of St. Charles, charging him with embezzlement of union funds, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, aiding and abetting and filing false reports, and maintaining false union records.
Pearson is director of the United Auto Workers Region 5 and a member of the union’s International Executive Board. He was elected director in 2018.
Galloway did not directly address the allegations against Pearson, but instead said she is focusing on the rank-and-file workers.
“Auditor Galloway is proud these workers have her back, just as she is proud to have their backs,” Slusher said.
The UAW has written three checks since last November to the Keep Government Accountable PAC. The most recent was a $30,000 contribution on Sept. 27.
Court documents show that at an annual conference in Palm Springs, California, union officials booked luxury villas for up to two months when the conference lasted just a week. Over $600,000 in UAW funds from 2014 to 2017 was run through the Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel’s “master account” and then spent to “satisfy debts incurred and arranged by senior UAW officials” at rental-home agencies, restaurants, the Indian Canyons Golf Resort and two cigar shops. Pearson or two other high-ranking union officials were involved in many of the billing arrangements, the affidavit says. The expenses were “concealed” as “off-site rooms” and “off-site functions” in a master invoice.
Over $400,000 was spent for off-site condos and villas, and the associated cleaning services. Over $60,000 in union funds were spent at two restaurants, including $6,599 at a New Year’s Eve dinner in 2016 at LG’s Prime Steakhouse that included $1,942 in liquor, $1,440 for wine and four $440 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal champagne. Two days before, the union was billed $2,079 for a meal at Johnny Costa’s Ristorante that included $40 glasses of Crown Royal XR and Macallan scotch.
In Missouri, officials spent $45,000 on meals and liquor, $75,000 on golf and golf clubs, $8,000 on spa treatments and $1,000 on a gun range, the affidavit says.
Galloway, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, is expected to meet Gov. Mike Parson in the November general election next year.
The head of a PAC raising money for Parson also has brushed off contributions from various sources, including a video gambling company involved in a corruption probe in Illinois and a slot machine company that state gaming officials say is operating illegal terminals in restaurants, gas stations and truck stops across the state.