New website allows members to search UAW spending

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
UAW logo

The United Auto Workers is criticizing a new website that aims to give its members an easy way to comb public records detailing how leadership spends their dues money.

The Center for Union Facts on Thursday launched The website compiles LM-2 records — public records the UAW files with the U.S. Department of Labor detailing its spending — into a searchable database. The Center for Union Facts has been labeled an anti-union lobbyist, and is affiliated with the Employment Policies Institute, which was created by lobbyist Richard Berman.

Spokesman Michael Saltsman told The Detroit News the website was borne out of the recent scandal involving the UAW and Fiat Chrysler that has led to seven convictions in an continuing federal corruption probe. Federal agents are investigating joint training centers funded by all three Detroit automakers and raised troubling questions about the conduct of the late Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

The conspiracy dates to at least 2009. Prosecutors allege the scheme was designed by FCA, the UAW and senior leaders at both organizations to wring concessions from the UAW by funneling money and illegal gifts to labor leaders.

"A lot of people are really furious about what's going on," Saltsman said. "We wanted to create a forum that's a relatively easy way to find how money is being spent."

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said the UAW is transparent with its spending, and the website doesn't offer anything new: LM-2's already are publicly accessible online through a U.S. government website.

"All of this information is already publicly reported and the UAW is proud of this transparency," he said in an emailed statement. "The organization doing this is a radical right-wing front group founded by a lobbyist. This information is not new to members as it is already public and available."

The new website would allow union members to click on their union Local and see total reported spending from 2013 to 2017 broken down by category, totals per year, and "spending highlights" that break out particularly how large dollar amounts of dues money were spent. A PDF file of the LM-2 detailing those large amounts is attached to each line item. 

Site visitors could also search for key words. The data is pulled from LM-2 forms and presented objectively, Saltsman said. He acknowledged the center receives at least some funding from those in the business community.

"We wanted everything to be by the book," he said. "These are reports that the UAW filed. If they have a problem with the website, I'd say they have a problem with the data."

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau