DETROIT -- UAW President Bob King today appealed to delegates for an increase in member dues without using the word “dues.”
During his state-of-the-union address, King asked the 1,100 assembled delegates at the UAW Constitutional Convention to strongly consider “constitutional changes” that clearly alluded to a 25 percent dues increase needed for organizing and rebuilding the union’s declining strike fund.
A vote on the increase is expected to come to the floor Tuesday. The decision will be the purview of delegates and not subject to a vote by rank and file.
King, 67, made a case during his speech that only through a strong strike fund can the UAW wield the power to bring recalcitrant employers to the bargaining table.
The fund has fallen in the past decade from more than $900 million to about $630 million today. Much of the draw on the fund has come from the tens of millions of dollars spent on the unsuccessful organizing drive at Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga assembly plant and other auto plants, largely in the South.
King, who retires this week at the convention, said the groundwork has been set to organize Chattanooga but the union needs workers to stay the course. King is expected to be replaced by UAW Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams.
The UAW leadership on Tuesday is expected to ask delegates to approve a dues hike. The proposed increase will be for an additional half hour of wages per worker, raising dues to 2.5 hours of wages each month. The hike would raise something less than $50 million annually.
The UAW has about 390,000 members. One-third work directly for the Detroit 3.
King acknowledged that some members have questioned the increase on social media and directly with leaders. He said the union perhaps needs to do a better job of communicating why it is needed.
He said organizing the transplants is crucial to securing new wages and benefits for Detroit 3 workers and eliminating Tier 2 compensation that compensates entry-level workers at just more than half the wages and benefits paid longtime autoworkers.
He said the transplants have used temporary workers for more than 25 years as a way to keep labor costs in check and jettison workers when they are no longer wanted.
King said the UAW during his four-year term has built ties with German and worldwide unions as well as with social justice groups, some of which supported the UAW’s drive at VW Chattanooga.
To keep that pressure on, he said, the UAW strike fund must be replenished to continue organizing drives and serve notice that the union means business in contract bargaining. The UAW last raised dues in 1967.
Dues hike opposed
Gary Walkowicz, a Ford worker running against Williams for president, said a dues increase will be a detriment to the union.
The inability of the UAW to organize VW Chattanooga and the other transplants is not for lack of organizing money, but concessionary UAW bargaining over the years that has given rise to Tier 2 wages and no wage increase for long-time Detroit 3 autoworkers in 12 years.
"They are not going to join if they don't see the benefits," Walkowicz said.
He said the UAW needs to get tougher in bargaining to demand additional wages and benefits as a magnet to the transplant workers.
The union has its approach upside down, Walkowicz said.