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UAW loses 33,000 members in 2008

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

UAW loses 33,000 members in 2008

Organizing drives fail to keep up to workers leaving auto industry

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The United Auto Workers lost more than 33,000 members in 2008, a new post-World War II low as Detroit’s Big Three continued to dramatically downsize.

Overall union membership crept up slightly in 2008 nationally, accounting for 12.4 percent of workers, up from 12.1 percent in 2007.

But the UAW’s ranks fell 7.3 percent to 431,037 in 2008 — down 33,873 from 464,910 in 2007, according to a report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. The union has lost more than 107,000 members in the last two years, and a total of 270,000 members since 2001. Its membership peaked in 1979 at 1.53 million.

Spokeswoman Christine Moroski said the UAW believes a 12-month average is a better gauge of its membership; that was about 468,000 in 2008, she said.

"Every union is struggling but because of our intense organizing effort we’re stemming our losses better than most," said International Brotherhood of Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell, whose union reported a 1.4 percent membershp decline. The Teamsters reported 1,402,878 members in 2008 — down from 1,423,038 in 2007.

But the union organized 43,000 new members in 2008, ahead of its 40,000-member goal; about half of those haven’t yet inked their first contract, so they aren’t counted in the membership figures for 2008, Caldwell said. If all are recognized and become dues-paying members, he said, the Teamsters could actually post a membership increase for the year.

The UAW’s membership losses are almost certain to increase in 2009, with General Motors Corp. announcing last week that more than 7,600 UAW members accepted early retirements or buyouts. Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co. have similar incentive programs to convince thousands more hourly employees to leave.

The Detroit-based UAW has sought to organize new members in recent years, but those gains among teaching assistants, auto dealerships, health care workers and casino dealers have not been enough to offset losses.

The annual report shows the UAW’s net assets fell by about $50 million to $1.2 billion in 2008, but the union has remained financially stable — thanks in part to its conservative investment strategy.

The UAW’s 18 officers, who make more than $130,000 a year each, received an average 4.4 percent pay raise in 2008. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger was awarded a 4.2 percent pay raise in 2008 to $157,117; secretary treasurer Elizabeth Bunn’s pay was boosted 4.9 percent to $146,100.

The UAW spent $310 million in 2008 on its operations, including $10.5 million on political activities and lobbying; $123 million on representational activities and about $100 million on overhead, union administration and benefits for its employees.

The Teamsters, meanwhile, spent $182.6 million in 2008 and took in receipts of $180 million. Teamsters President James P. Hoffa received a 3.6 percent raise in his salary 2008 to $287,949.


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