Despite the pandemic and an economic downturn, the United Auto Workers reported its membership numbers remained steady and its finances remained stable in 2020.
These positive results came despite the costs linked to the scandal, which has engulfed the union. In fact, the union’s strike fund grew last year. Average membership stayed came in at 397,073 compared to 398,829 in 2019, according to the report the UAW filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.
“The UAW managed a very difficult pandemic year reporting steady membership numbers and weathering pandemic shutdowns,” said UAW President Rory Gamble.
“The membership reported on the LM-2 is literally a snapshot of the number of members for whom the UAW received dues during the month of December. We believe actual membership is higher when you account for members who were still sidelined during the pandemic in December and the timing of payroll and dues remitted by our local unions around the holiday shutdown.”
Fire at headquarters big expense
Gamble said that there are some one-time expenditures related to legal costs for the Department of Justice settlement. The deal followed the federal investigation of the union. It led to more than a dozen UAW officials pleading guilty to criminal charges ranging from embezzlement to mail fraud and other violations of federal labor law.
The renovation of Solidarity House, which was badly damaged in a fire in the summer of 2019, required modern building code upgrades.
Gamble said while insurance is paying for the majority of the fire-related renovation, costs required to bring the facility up to modern building and handicap accessibility codes are borne by the UAW. The union expects to re-occupy the building in the first half of 2022.
Due to the new expenses for lawyers and building upgrades, the union implemented a series of cost-saving measures. These efforts paid off in the form of a strong balance sheet, officials noted.
Strike fund grows
“In a very challenging year, we were able to be creative in saving on costs including travel and meetings by utilizing technology and took advantage of solid investments that performed exceedingly well,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry. “The bottom line is that the UAW ended the year balanced with modest growth and the strike fund continued to grow at a healthy pace.
“In addition,” Curry added, “with our new stringent internal and external auditing, members can be assured that these financial results reflect the solid way in which the union has handled such a challenging year.”
The union implemented the accounting changes after the scandal exposed weakness in union’s financial reporting system. There were modest declines in the percentage of revenue that were offset by strong investment earnings through the year.
The Strike and Defense Fund balance increased to $790 million replenishing the fund from the 2019 General Motors Strike and increase of $51 million in dues and investment earnings.
There were additional savings throughout the year as staff implemented technology to continue operations during the pandemic. For instance, travel expenses were down by $3 million and meeting expenses were down by $1.5 million, Curry said.