UAW membership rose 1% in 2016

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The United Auto Workers added more than 7,000 members in 2016 as the Detroit-based union grew by 1 percent over the prior year, according to documents filed Friday with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The union said in the filing that it has 415,963 members last year, up from the 408,639 it had in 2015. The increase marks the seventh straight year the union has grown its ranks after reaching a nadir of 355,191 in 2009.

The UAW’s membership topped 500,000 in 2006, when it reported having 538,448 members. The union had more than 701,000 members in 2002.

The Department of Labor filing showed the UAW spent $13,236,360 on political activities and lobbying in 2016, and $952,701 on contributions, gifts and grants. It says the union has $861,701,703 in net assets.

The UAW did not immediately return a request for comment.

The union has been trying to grow its ranks and gain a foothold in non-union auto plants that are located in predominantly “right-to-work” states in the South.

The UAW did not break out membership for Michigan, where a right-to-work law took effect in March 2013. However, there was a decline in overall union membership in the state by about 1 percent in 2016, according to statistics released in January by the federal government.

The Michigan right-to-work law prohibits union contracts from requiring “fair share” fees as a condition of employment to pay for the cost of collective bargaining agreements.

The law was challenged in court, but the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in July 2015 that about 35,000 state employees should have never been subject to paying union fees, giving conservative supporters of the state’s right-to-work law a major victory.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said in January the number of union members in Michigan dropped from 621,000 in 2015 to 606,000 last year, going from 15.2 percent to 14.4 percent.

The Michigan decrease was part of 0.4 percent drop in national union membership in 2016 that saw the number of labor-affiliated workers in the U.S. drop from more than 14.8 million in 2015 to 14.6 million in 2016.

The UAW negotiated new contracts in 2015 with Detroit’s three automakers that included lucrative signing bonuses, raises for roughly 150,000 workers and a path to top wages for new hires. The deals helped preserve health care benefits for the union’s members, although the concept of a pool that would group all three automakers together to reduce costs was rejected by workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and dropped.

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