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UAW membership rises 3.1% in 2014

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

The United Auto Workers union said its membership rose 3.1 percent last year to 403,466 — the fifth-straight annual increase, and the first time since 2008 that it topped 400,000.

Still, the union has lost about 250,000 members since 2004 and is down sharply from its all-time record of 1.53 million members in 1979. It faces challenges of “right-to-work” laws in Michigan and elsewhere that allow members to opt out. Hourly workers at Detroit’s Big Three automakers will have that option after this year’s contract talks.

A key UAW priority is getting a pay raise for workers at Detroit’s Big Three automakers, and it also faces other big contract talks this year.

The Detroit-based union said its total assets fell to $978.1 million, down from $990 million at the end of 2013.

This was the second straight year the UAW’s assets were below $1 billion. That’s the lowest in more than a decade, but total receipts rose to $220 million last year, up from $214 million in 2013. Its receipts have fallen sharply in recent years and were $261 million in 2012.

The UAW spent $218 million in 2014, up slightly from $214 million in 2013. The union has cut spending dramatically. It spent $306 million in every year from 2000 through 2009.

In June, the UAW approved the first union dues rate increase since 1967 — a 25 percent boost. The increase, from two hours of monthly pay to two-and-a-half hours, took effect in August. It was aimed at helping the UAW boost its strike fund to help it better bargain with employers, including Detroit automakers in 2015. Supporters call it crucial to ensuring the union can command good contracts with a threat of a strike.

The dues hike is expected to generate $45 million annually, all of which will be directed into the strike fund, which in June sat at about $600 million, down from about $1 billion in 2006. The union has tapped its strike fund over the last few years by $30 million to $40 million a year to pay operating expenses, resisting dues hikes during the downturn.

The UAW said it sold seven buildings in 2014 for $18.4 million last year including the Miller Building in Detroit. It had spent $6.7 million for the Miller Building, but sold it for $1 million.

The Department of Labor numbers do not reflect the total number of workers represented by the UAW, including newly organized workers in the process of bargaining a first contract — and workers in the academic sector who are represented by the UAW but have not yet signed membership cards.

New UAW President Dennis Williams’ total compensation was $175,160 in 2014. That was down from the $176,392 that Bob King made in 2013.

The UAW made about $1.8 million in royalties through a union-branded credit card.