* UAW union political spending higher during 2012 election year
* Net assets fall 4 percent and investments down $65 million
By Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT, April 2 (Reuters) - The total assets of the United Auto Workers fell for the sixth straight year in 2012 while spending on political activities and lobbying nearly quadrupled from the previous year, the union’s annual financial filing with the U.S. Labor Department shows.
In 2012, the union reported assets of just over $1 billion, down 4 percent from the previous year, according to the filing dated March 29. Liabilities were roughly $7.7 million. The value of the UAW’s investment holdings fell 8.3 percent, or nearly $65 million, to about $718 million.
Under its president Bob King, who was elected in 2010, the union is trying to build membership at auto plants in the southern United States and expand into other areas including gaming, healthcare and higher education. Less than half of the UAW’s nearly 383,000 members work in the auto industry.
Last Thursday, the union reported its third straight year of membership gains.
But the dues paid by workers in other industries is often less than what is possible in the auto sector. In the past, the UAW has sold assets and investments to pay for operations.
In 2012, the UAW reported an increase in annual funding by 1 percent to $261 million. Funding from dues fell about 6 percent. The sale of investments and assets rose 13 percent.
Cash disbursements were up 1 percent to $260 million. It included nearly $30 million spent on political activities and lobbying during a presidential election year.
The union also wrote off the value of furniture and other equipment by about $38.5 million and its Black Lake golf course in northern Michigan by $1.8 million.
The union opened the golf course during the SUV boom in 2000, when membership was about 672,000. The golf course is now worth $5.7 million, the UAW said.
At its peak, UAW membership was 1.5 million in 1979. Auto workers at the Detroit Three automakers represented about three-quarters of the membership in the 1970s.
Now, workers from General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat’s Chrysler Group account for about a third of the total.