On June 2, the UAW’s four-day constitutional convention commenced. And coming out of the convention is a really unpopular decision to increase union dues payments on union membership.
On Tuesday, union delegates voted to increase dues payments by 25 percent, the first since 1960. The Detroit News reports, “For a veteran autoworker making $28 an hour, the increase would cost $14 a month, or $168 a year. Newer union members in the lower $14-an-hour wage tier would pay half that amount.”
Unsurprisingly, the decision has been met with resistance from membership.
The proposal of a dues hike prior to the convention had riled up membership. The Detroit News interviewed several members that conducted a last-ditch effort to kibosh the UAW dues hike initiative. Their statements to the paper highlight the current divide in UAW membership.
One dissenting member considered any dues increase a “slap in the face.” Another UAW member, Gary Walkowicz, said the dues hike is “opposed by a large majority” of members and that derailing the dues hike it not about the money, but “really goes back to disagreeing with the leadership.”
But it is not a shock that UAW membership disagrees with leadership. The grassroots organization Union Conservatives, founded by UAW member Terry Bowman, notes that 40 percent of UAW membership is conservative. However, UAW’s political spending goes almost exclusively to progressive causes and candidates.
Another reason members question the legitimacy of a dues increase is related to the recent failed and expensive organizing campaigns. For example, the UAW spent years and around $5 million in a failed effort to organize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Similarly, the UAW has conducted a multi-year campaign to organize a Nissan plant in Mississippi, which has failed up to this point.
Further, a recent letter written by a disgruntled UAW member, highlights the turmoil within the union. The letter questions the politics of the UAW, misuse of union funds by leadership, and considers the union’s claims that it is a “democratic” union as hypocritical (see full letter here).
While UAW leadership grandstands at the convention and pays lip service to solidarity — and UAW officer T.J. Perez makes comments such as, “If you opt out of the union because of a half-hour dues increase, you were never in the union” — their actions show that those holding power within the UAW are out of touch with the concerns of membership and need to be removed.