05.31.2009 0

Getting to Know the UAW

  • On: 06/25/2009 10:34:54
  • In: Big Labor
  • ALG Editor’s Note: In the following featured commentary, Holman W. Jenkins Jr. of the Wall Street Journal details just how severely unqualified the UAW is to run General Motors—much less a Golf Resort.

    Getting to Know the UAW

    By Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

    When it comes to the GM and Chrysler bailouts, U.S. taxpayers merely suspect they’re really being asked to dig into their pockets to rescue the United Auto Workers union. But taxpayers in Michigan’s Waverly Township are in no doubt. The Detroit News reports the UAW has appealed to the state tax tribunal to dispute $3 million in property taxes the town assessed on the union’s nearby Black Lake golf resort.

    Yes, golf resort. Now led by UAW chief Ron Gettelfinger, the union has long owned 1,000 acres of forested land in western Michigan for an “education center,” and in 2000 used union funds to add a luxury golf course, along with amenities such as a fitness club. What’s more, the property, valued at $33 million, has been losing money ever since, some $23 million just in the last five years.

    A couple questions naturally come up: If the UAW can’t run a golf club, how can it run Chrysler, of which it is now majority owner? Also: The club is part of $1.2 billion in union-owned assets built up from member dues mostly to support a “strike fund.” Why does a much-shrunken UAW need a strike fund by now sufficient to finance a multi-week, catastrophic strike that would throw the entire U.S.-born auto industry into bankruptcy once more?

    Here’s another question: President Obama slammed Chrysler’s debtholders in the company’s Chapter 11 filing for insisting on their legal rights. “They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices, and they would have to make none,” he said. But why wouldn’t a reasonable sacrifice have been for the UAW to contribute its strike fund assets to the UAW retiree health care fund, which was the major beneficiary of the lopsided bankruptcy settlement rammed through by the administration?

    Normally those who are bailed out are expected to have exhausted their own resources first, but the UAW is still sitting on a billion-dollar fund whose only fiduciary purpose is to threaten the industry’s destruction. Meanwhile, taxpayer funds poured into GM and Chrysler nakedly are being used to please the UAW rather than make the companies competitive. Latest case in point: Workers who accepted a $20,000 buyout and voluntarily left GM weeks ago are summarily being handed an additional $25,000 out of freshly-infused taxpayer money.

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