Recently at my place of employment, Ford Motor Company, Bob King had his representatives handing out a letter that is part of a campaign to convince the UAW members how they need to increase our union dues by 25%. That letter can be found here and the FAQ that generated my reply can be found here. Below you will find our reply. Credit and thanks go to my wife Danette for researching and putting together the financial data in the handout and reply. Please feel free to download and distribute a copy of this letter and the highlighted handout which can be downloaded using the links below.
Reply to Bob King’s February 14, 2014 Letter concerning UAW Dues Increase
Mr. King, the UAW has had a great history of collective bargaining, but what are the costs being paid by UAW members? Does the UAW-IEB Regional Directors and International Officers, (the Upper Echelon of the UAW) understand who it is they claim to represent? Does this UAW “Upper Class” understand those UAW workers who agree with the principal of protecting the worker but disagree with the partisan politics that the UAW-IEB espouses and the financial cost of such partisan politics? Mr. King, your letter claims to not be about funding partisan politics, however you mention, “the interference of billionaire-funded outside groups”, interfering with UAW attempts to organize. This is a direct statement about politics; partisan politics which you spend UAW time and money on and for which you are now requesting an increase in funding under a disguised “Strike/Defense” fund. You directly state in the pro-member FAQ that the Strike/Defense Fund cannot be used for such political purposes yet you state this as one of the main upcoming challenges the UAW faces. It is all about politics and you alienate those 40% of households, who are politically active UAW voting members who have party affiliations other than the one you spend our money on.
The UAW total spending for political activities, gifts and contributions is over $30,000,000. 11.8 million to liberal groups, 1.2 million to Priorities USA a pro-Obama SuperPac, 1.8 million to Federal candidates and this year alone over $178,000 to Democratic candidates only. Again, what about those currently employed UAW dues paying members of other parties? How are you an equal representation of them? Why should they shoulder costs associated with different ideological political beliefs but yet still believe in and support a workplace union?
In regards to pro-member, your letter mentions several “core-elements” to address including improved communication, operational efficiencies, and cost cutting. I’d like to talk about the last two. Communication does not seem to be as big a problem both in regards to lines of communication being open between the UAW and their members and those same lines being open between the UAW and the Press. On a local individual unit level, at least in my experience, these lines of communication could use improving. Our unit leadership is out of touch.
Operational efficiencies and cost cutting is a different story. You are “challenging members” to be a part of that process. How much has our UAW-IEB leadership cut costs? I’m challenging the UAW “Upper Echelon” to be a part of that cost cutting process. Not just in words but consistent meaningful cost cutting action. You stated that operating costs of the UAW was the reason for reallocation of resources from the strike fund. Have you studied your operating costs lately? The Black Lake Golf course is subsidized for over $5,000,000 a year! UAW has spent over 1.4 million in airfare, 3.7 million in hotels, and .3 million in car rentals and if you add bus rental and food supplies and conference centers it adds up to over $6,000,000! You and the UAW-IEB Upper Echelon are hemorrhaging our cash.
Has UAW leadership pay seen any increase since 2010? Are the Regional Directors and International Officers, as wells as Union Employees any lighter in their pockets since 2010? You state the UAW has cut costs by $15 million, that is 5% of UAW spending and yet you turn around and ask for a 25% increase in our dues? You claim the UAW has reduced staff by 38% yet payroll is still about 46 million and it’s been the same since 2010, which means fewer people getting more money! Raising our dues by 25% is not an option.
You are correct; a robust strike fund is a strong deterrent. Simply put, stop withdrawing from it! How can you guarantee that this proposed dues increase will only go into a “Strike/Defense” fund? Like in the past, it goes into such a fund and is then withdrawn into a “general fund” for “operational/representational” costs. Your letter also mentions getting excellent value for our hard-earned dues dollar. What did you spend in your attempts to organize VW and what value did we receive as dues paying members for that expenditure? You go on to mention increased employer aggression which wasn’t the case with the attempt to organize VW, yet with a willing and cooperative employer our money was spent and organization failed.
How convenient is your need to finance a renamed “Strike/Defense” fund? This fund is a tool to allow the UAW to collect more money from those who DO NOT now or for the foreseeable future even have the ability to strike. So, let me see if I understand this correctly. By renaming this fund to the Strike/Defense Fund you are now able to “represent” better those who cannot even strike? This sounds like a political defense fund to me, of which one already exists, V-CAP.
Mr. King, your letter states you want to eliminate the two-tiered pay system. Why was this allowed in the first place, along with new hires receiving no pension? Our dues were paid to protect us from such concessions at the bargaining table. Who are you blaming for deals such as those? We supposedly pay for such “protection”. Now we will pay twice, dues for you to concede to the two-tier/no pension system, and now we pay again to try to remove it? With wages being substantially decreased via this two-tier system and a government subsidized ACA (pushed into law by UAW’S chosen party) providing health care, what does the UAW have to offer if these bargaining points are quickly becoming mute issues?
In your letter you completely alienate UAW members who do not share your political beliefs or party association. This is a right to work state now and with the upcoming contract we no longer have to pay membership dues. Are you willing to take a chance in losing those dues? What can you do to keep these dues paying members who are considering opting out? Will you alienate those of us who currently love our union but mistrust its government or will you concede to the fact that it is time for a new and transparent game plan?