UAW membership rises for 4th straight year as industry rebounds

Membership has increased each year of Bob King's presidency.
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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the peak membership for the UAW in the 1970s.

DETROIT -- The UAW said its membership rolls expanded by 9,000 last year, helped by successful organizing drives in the South and continued employment gains at the Detroit 3.

The union ended 2013 with 391,415 members, up 2.3 percent from the previous year, according to a federal filing cited in a statement today. The tally marked the fourth straight year of increases.

The UAW said employment gains achieved in a 2011 labor pact with General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group “continue to pay off through job creation at many facilities throughout the country.”

The UAW said it also added members after successful recruiting drives at an IC Bus plant in Tulsa, Okla.; a Flex-n-Gate auto parts plant in Arlington, Texas; and a Faurecia factory in Louisville, Ky. 

Successful organizing drives at casinos in Ohio and Las Vegas also added to the union’s member rolls. 

The union’s annual membership last fell in 2009, to 355,191, when the Detroit 3 slashed production and shed workers as the economy collapsed.

UAW membership peaked at 1.5 million in 1979. The union has battled to reverse the steep loss in members that has coincided with a steady rise in U.S. sales and manufacturing output at Asian and European automakers, which are largely union free.

VW setback

Even with the gains in recent years, the rolls still trail the 2008 count of 431,037.

In February, the union lost a high-profile vote to represent 1,500 workers at Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant. UAW officials have appealed the vote on the grounds outside groups interfered with the outcome.

The union is also actively recruiting workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama and at a Nissan Motor Co. factory in Canton, Miss.

“We welcome these new members and commend our existing membership who have made organizing and building the union a priority, despite an all-out attack on working people and our right to organize,” UAW President Bob King, who took over in 2010, said in the statement.

“Workers in the South who are organizing are proving that Southern workers want and need unions,” King added. “The UAW is going to continue to fight for their right to organize and we’re going to fight to protect our members across the county who face employer challenges and anti-union efforts to undermine collective bargaining rights.”

Union finances

King's 2013 compensation dropped 7 percent to $162,971, the filing shows, and total disbursements to the union's top officers fell to $2.4 million from $2.7 million in 2012.

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams, who is expected to succeed King as president at the union's constitutional convention in June, earned a salary of $151,030 in 2013.

The filing shows that the UAW's assets fell below $1 billion for the first time since at least 2000, dropping to $990 million from $1 billion.

The UAW said its total receipts last year fell to $214 million from $261 million in 2012. More than half -- or $115.1 million -- of the UAW’s income in 2013 came from membership dues.

King disclosed in January that the union’s international committee will propose to increase membership dues by 25 percent -- representing an extra half hour of wages from the current two hours of pay a month.

If approved by UAW members at the June convention, it will be the first rise in dues since the late 1960s. The additional funds will be used to bolster the union's strike fund.

The union paid out $4.47 million in strike benefits last year, the filing says.

In the filing, the UAW disclosed it spent $214 million in 2013, down from $260 million in 2012.
 
The union, still one of the nation's wealthiest, has been forced to reduce spending to counter the sharp drop in membership and dues.
 
A two-tier wage plan adopted by the Detroit 3 that provides lower starting pay for new hires has also undermined the union's dues collections.
 
Williams, if elected president, has vowed to rescind the two-tier wage pact with the Detroit 3 in the next round of national bargaining.
 
 
 

You can reach David Phillips at dphillips@crain.com.


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