Bob King, President of the United Auto Workers union, said in a press conference on January 15th that the union plans to raise dues. He stated that his members will “overwhelmingly support a 25 percent dues hike.” The current dues are equivalent to 2 hours of a worker’s pay a month and the proposed increase would bring it to 2.5 hours.
King says that the dues increase would go to fatten up the union’s strike fund. A strike fund is money set aside to pay workers while they strike and are not working. Why would the union need more striking capital? Especially since according to the Detroit Bureau, King believes that “the new UAW of the 21st Century doesn’t need to threaten strikes or set up picket lines to make its point and reach a rational decision.” So if they are playing nice, why need a larger strike fund?
The strike fund has fallen as the decline in union membership has been decreasing over the last few decades. It once sat at 1 billion dollars, but now currently holds 600 million. King’s goal is for the fund to reach that 1 billion dollar mark again. King’s term as president is up in June, so talks of a new chief are in the works. Likely successor Dennis Williams was quoted saying that he “does not mind confrontation.” Confrontation in the union world amounts to one thing: striking. And we shouldn’t be surprised that Williams boasts a wonderful strike track record, leading a 5 year strike against the construction equipment company, Caterpillar.
Dues money isn’t just used for the strike fund; the money is used in other ways. According to Forbes, union dues money often goes to political activity.
“These dues often go to partisan politics that benefit officeholders and regulators—not necessarily union members. In 2008, labor unions spent $75 million in political donations, with 92 percent of it going to Democrats. In 2010, over 93 percent of union political support went to Democrats, even though 42 percent of union households voted Republican, according to exit-polling data.”
The UAW alone gave over $148,000 to re-elect President Barack Obama, and it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that Dennis Williams has his hand in the administration’s cookie jar, serving as an Obama campaign organizer in 2008.
So as Bob King is ready to step down from his post he will be passing his crown to a new leader, with strong Democratic ties and large strike fund at his disposal. But this larger fund comes at a cost. A dues increase is like an additional tax on workers. And in this economy it seems improbable that these workers actually “overwhelmingly” support paying more out of their pockets, and then having their money go towards politicians they may not agree with or even support.