* Union dipped heavily into assets during downturn
* UAW President Bob King aims to add members, cut costs
By Bernie Woodall
NEW YORK, May 18 The United Auto Workers aims to
break even by mid-2014, as the American union looks to bolster
its political and bargaining clout.
For the past five years, the UAW has relied heavily on
selling its war chest of stocks, bonds and property to bridge
the gap between its annual funding and costs.
The union believes this approach is untenable in the long
run and its goal is to "have it turned around" in two years by
adding members and managing costs, UAW President Bob King said
in an interview on Friday.
"We are going to be at break-even or beginning to again
accumulate resources beyond that" by the UAW's next convention
in June 2014, King told the Thomson Reuters editorial board.
Under UAW Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams, the union has
improved the way it manages costs, King said. Organizing more
dues-paying members will help the UAW turn around its finances.
King declined to comment on the rate at which the union is
"To run the kind of programs we need to run to rebuild the
collective bargaining power, political power, legislative power
of the UAW, you have to spend money," King said. "So we are
spending more money than we are taking in right now."
King's term as president will end in June 2014, and his
successor is expected to be named at the convention.
By that point, he would like to show delegates concrete
evidence of the success of his turnaround strategy, he said.
Still, he added that a lot of outside factors will affect
the union's ability to reach its 2014 convention goal.
"We are spending a lot of money, and we're investing money
in organizing," King said. "And we're investing money in
rebuilding the ability of the UAW to win good contracts and win
good legislation for our membership."
If the union did nothing else, which is unlikely, it could
break even by boosting membership by roughly 50 percent.
"We know what amount of workers it would take to balance
it," said King. "You could balance it right now if you organize
a couple hundred thousand workers."
In 2011, the UAW increased its membership by 1 percent to
380,719 members as Detroit's three automakers added jobs in
response to a 10 percent increase in U.S. auto sales.
The current upswing in the U.S. auto industry follows a deep
recession that saw the Detroit Three automakers shed jobs and
suffer financial losses. The union's finances also deteriorated.
With assets of more than $1 billion, the UAW is still
America's richest union but the bulk of its wealth is tied up in
its strike fund and cannot be tapped at will. As a result, the
UAW was forced to sell stocks, bonds and other assets to pay for
its day-to-day operations during the most recent U.S. economic
downturn as the number of dues-paying members fell.
In the five years from 2007 to 2011, the union has sold
nearly $264 million in stocks, bonds and property. By contrast,
in the seven years from 2000 to 2006, the union sold $7.3
"We're blessed that we have an extremely strong reserve at
the UAW," King said.