US: the UAW to ask members for approval of dues increase image

UAW President Bob King said he will ask members to approve a dues increase at their convention in June as the union seeks to replenish its strike fund and continue an organizing push at foreign automotive assembly plants in the South.

The planned dues increase also comes with the UAW closer than it has been in perhaps decades to organizing a German or Asian automaker’s plant in the South. The union says that more than 50% of workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have expressed support for the UAW.

“Members want better contracts, better wages and better retirement and better health care so they need a strong union to be able to deliver that and I think members will really support putting another half-hour into the strike fund to make that happen,” King said after speaking at Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.

If they approved the increase, it would be the first time since 1967 that the union raised the percentage of income workers pay. King said the increase would be the equivalent of a half-hour increase in monthly wages — from 2 hours’ to 2.5 hours’ pay — and would go into the UAW’s strike fund.

“Most unions’ dues are higher than the UAW’s are right now because we had a really strong strike fund and because we were able to go into the strike fund rather than to the membership for a number of years,” King said.

The union’s strike fund had exceeded $1 billion, but has shrunk to about $600 million as membership has fallen — that trend has reversed slightly since 2011. The UAW has spent considerable sums to organize casino workers and auto suppliers in southeast states. King also said the UAW will ask members to change the name of the fund to the “strike and defense fund.”

King and the UAW also could use the additional dues money in Tennessee where the union faces a fierce political battle against the state’s political infrastructure, which is heavily anti-union.