With Crucial Events Looming, UAW Reports Drop in Membership for 2021
The United Auto Workers kicked off 2022 with a packed agenda: a constitutional convention, campaigns to organize new members as the auto industry transitions to electric vehicles, a growing organizing movement in the higher education and continued efforts to restore the union’s reputation over the years… long corruption investigation.
Direct elections of international leaders following a landmark referendum to change how the union selects its top leaders and a new round of nationwide contract talks with the Detroit Three automakers are also imminent.
Yet even as the union struggles to put the corruption scandal behind it, related expenses continued to pile up last year, according to a new federal union filing, with new legal expenses for some of the top UAW leaders, additional payments to an outside law firm hired to oversee the union’s response to the investigation, and payments related to the federal comptroller overseeing the union.
“It’s hard to say what the total costs of this are, but it’s more than the dollar cost,” said Marick Masters, a professor at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business. “You have to ask yourself: how many one are we making improvements to how the union works?”
The union also started the year down about 6% to 372,254 members at the end of 2021 from 397,073 members in 2020. Those numbers were shared by UAW President Ray Curry earlier this week. at an Automotive Press Association event and confirmed in annual filings the union filed Thursday night with the US Department of Labor.
The drop in membership reflects the ups and downs the UAW has seen over the past decade, according to federal documents. In 2012, for example, the union had 382,513 members. In 2017, it grew to over 430,000 members.
The number reported Thursday reflects members who, as of Dec. 31, have paid dues, which are usually deducted from their paychecks. Curry pointed to supply chain disruptions that have rocked the auto industry over the past two years during the coronavirus pandemic to explain some of the losses.
“This decrease partly reflects when companies managed downtime for supply chain issues, year-end and downtime built into holiday periods and year-end reporting. “, did he declare. “In some cases, due to downtime, dues for December actually came in during the months of January and February. It always depends on when dues are received, as far as our members are concerned.”
Still, he said, the union is “on solid ground,” pointing to recent investments by Detroit automakers to build electric vehicles. He also noted that about 17,000 University of California research students will officially join the ranks of the union this year, potentially offsetting some of the membership losses from 2021.
While the decline can be attributed in part to changes in demographics and the level of employment in the union’s sectors, Masters said, he pointed to just a few years ago when membership topped 430,000.
“What this (the decline) clearly suggests to me is that they’re not making much progress on the organizational front,” he said. “Until it clearly organizes the parts of the industry that deal with battery manufacturing, its future is very, very uncertain.”
At the APA event this week, Curry recognized the need to organize workers at electric vehicle startups and EV component manufacturing operations to maintain and even grow union membership.
Meanwhile, the Syndicate ended 2021 with $1,086,802,397 in net assets, just below what it was at the end of 2020. It grossed around $293 million. He received a restitution check for $76,403 from former President Dennis Williams, who is serving time in federal prison for his role in the corruption scandal.
The federal investigation found that union leaders and auto executives violated federal labor laws, stole union funds, and received bribes and illegal benefits from union contractors and Fiat Chrysler executives. To date, it has resulted in 17 convictions and sent Williams and another former UAW president, Gary Jones, to prison.
The UAW has since implemented a number of reforms, including monetary controls and audits. And early last year, a federal court approved a consent decree that places the union under federal supervision for six years.
The union also reported legal fees for two members of the International Executive Board: $36,069 for Curry and $113,016 for Vice President Cindy Estrada, head of the union’s Stellantis department, among numerous other legal expenses.
Among them: The UAW paid $496,859 to the main outside law firm that handled the union’s response to the federal corruption probe. The Detroit News reported in 2020 that the UAW had paid more than $1.9 million since 2015 to Chicago-based law firm Cotsirilos, Tighe, Streicker, Poulos & Campbell to oversee the union’s response to the investigation. . And in 2020, the union paid the company $558,217, bringing the total to more than $2.95 million.
In 2019, the UAW spent the following on legal fees for individual leaders: $68,094 for former Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel; $3,622 for curry; $5,847 for Estrada; $24,599 for Gary Jones; and $320,912 for Williams.
In 2020, he spent $10,718 in legal fees for Area 9A Director Beverley Brakeman; $6,683 for curry; $1,210 for Estrada; and $10,888 for Region 8 manager Mitchell Smith, according to last year’s filing.
Masters noted that the expenses related to the corruption scandal and the resulting reform efforts go beyond legal fees for union leaders. The 2021 record, for example, reflects a salary for an external ethics officer, a new position prompted by the scandal; payments to an outside company to oversee the referendum on direct elections, which was required by the federal comptroller; and payments related to the control itself.
An example: the filing indicates that $447,006 was paid to the law firm Crowell & Moring LLP and more than $1.9 million to the law firm Jennifer & Block LLP for “oversight duties.”
“It’s a relatively small amount of money compared to the total pie they’re dealing with,” Masters said, “but they don’t have a very big pie.”
Meanwhile, Curry, who became president last year, received a 2021 salary of $212,396. The salaries — not including other disbursements — of secretary-treasurer Frank Stuglin and Estrada vice-presidents Terry Dittes and Chuck Browning, respectively, were: $193,719, $190,907, $198,525, and $190,499.
The UAW also reported a $1.63 million cancellation fee to Caesar’s Entertainment in Las Vegas. The union had planned to hold its constitutional convention there this summer, but later moved the event to Detroit. The union said the fees would be credited towards future events it hosts at Caesar’s.
Writer Robert Snell contributed.