Driving the UAW out of the South; Auto Workers Won't Pay Union Dues That Cover Big Labor's Greens Fees

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 9, 2014 | Go to article overview

Driving the UAW out of the South; Auto Workers Won't Pay Union Dues That Cover Big Labor's Greens Fees


Byline: Matt Patterson

The United Auto Workers (UAW) has for years tried to organize foreign-owned auto plants in the South. Chief among its targets have been the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Mercedes facility in Vance, Ala.

Last February, though, VW employees rejected the union in a secret-ballot vote, 712-626. Now comes more bad news for UAW bosses: Their supporters in Alabama are telling them to go back to Detroit.

"This [organizing drive] has gone on for 2 years, and people are burned out," explained Kirk Garner, a union supporter who has worked at the Mercedes plant for more than a dozen years. "It's over."

Jim Spitzley, another veteran Mercedes worker, is likewise fed up with the UAW's bungling campaign and myopic vision. "It's all about the image with the UAW," he laments, "it's not about the workers." As a consequence, he says, "there's a lot of people that will not sign a card with the UAW. They're tired of it."

In spite of these high-profile setbacks in Alabama and Tennessee, the UAW is set to raise dues on its members. On June 3, at the union's 36th Constitutional Convention in Detroit, outgoing President Bob King successfully pushed through his long-desired 25 percent dues hike, which will bring in an estimated $45 million annually to UAW coffers.

There's no question the union needs the money -- its membership has been in free-fall for decades. In 1979, it could field a formidable 1.5 million-strong army. Now fewer than 400,000 count themselves card-carrying members (and half of those do not even come from the auto industry, but hold teaching, nursing and related jobs in both the public and private sectors).

The question many union members are asking is: Does the union deserve more money from us, in light of its disastrous stewardship of its finances? …

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