Just one week separates the UAW union and the Detroit Three automakers from the workers’ labor contract expiration date and both parties are rushing the negotiatiosn to get the best possible deals.
But for the UAW union, nailing the best possible settlement for its more than 141,000 members might not be enough – because once the wage deal is signed some of them will use the occasion to quit the union. That’s because this is the first time the UAW negotiates the collective contract with General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles since Michigan also introduced right-to-work legislation back in 2013. Under the rules – which is applicable only to newly hired workers – makes it illegal for the employer to require union membership as a condition of employment. The workers that choose not to pay union dues will not get a say in union contracts but the UAW is legally forced to represent them in case of a conflict with the company. And the issue is crucial for the UAW, which depends on annual dues – around $550 per person – to fund its annual budget of around $214 million. The union has around one billion dollars in assets but also a declining membership level for decades.
After peaking back in 1979 at around 1.5 million members, just a decade ago the UAW only had 650,000 members and the tally has shrunk to around 400,000 today even as membership ranks have gained new additions during the past half decade because of the automakers being eager to new workers as the turnaround brought increased auto demand.