Frequently Asked Questions
What are current UAW dues?
At the 36th Constitutional Convention held in June, 2014, the delegates passed changes to Article 16 of the UAW Constitution which changed the UAW dues structure for the first time since March 1968. For members who work in either the private sector or public with a legal right to strike, the minimum monthly dues is an amount equivalent to 2.5 hours of straight time pay for members working full time paid on an hourly basis, or 1.44% of gross straight time monthly wages for members paid on a salaried basis and for members employed part-time and paid on an hourly basis.
For members who work in the public sector and are legally prohibited from striking, the minimum monthly dues will be an amount equivalent to 1.9 hours of straight time pay for members working full time paid on an hourly basis or 1.095% of gross straight time monthly wages for members paid on a salaried basis and for members employed part-time and paid on an hourly basis. In addition, the Strike Assistance Fund was changed to the Strike and Defense Fund (see more, below). Per action of the delegates, the dues increase is subject to reaffirmation at the 37th Constitutional Convention in June 2018. If not reaffirmed, minimum monthly dues revert back to 2010 levels.
Now the dues increase, has passed when will my dues increase?
The dues increase went into effect the first regularly scheduled pay roll period in which dues are normally deducted beginning November 1, 2014.
What is the UAW Strike and Defense Fund?
The delegates to the convention changed the name of the Strike Assistance Fund to the Strike and Defense Fund. The Strike and Defense Fund broadens the Strike Assistance Fund to reflect changing times.
As an initial matter, members who are currently exempt from contributing to the Strike Assistance Fund because the nature of their employment bars strikes (i.e., most public sector workers) would contribute to the new Strike and Defense Fund. Public sector workers are facing increasingly aggressive attacks on their basic right to collective bargaining. Defending the right of public sector workers to bargain has become a commonplace (and costly) endeavor.
Moreover, the reality of bargaining today is that the battles all UAW members face have changed. Employers today use a variety of aggressive tactics to try to defeat strikes: hiring permanent replacement workers, filing lawsuits, shifting work to nonunion locations or sending it overseas. We still need to have the ability to pay benefits during a prolonged national strike, but we also need to have the ability to carry out multi-pronged strategic campaigns in addition to, or even instead of, a traditional strike.
All of these campaigns require resources, just as a strike does. By amending the UAW Constitution to update the name and the purpose of the International Strike Assistance Fund ensures that we have the resources to take on future contract fights and the flexibility to use the most effective tactics to win those fights. The core purpose of the Strike and Defense Fund is exactly the same as the core purpose of the Strike Assistance Fund: to provide direct material support to our fellow members who are fighting for a fair contract, including defending their right to collective bargaining. It cannot be used for regular operating expenses.
All disbursements from the renamed Strike and Defense Fund would be subject to approval of the IEB, just as strike assistance payments are. The IEB considers multiple factors, including but not limited to: cost, likelihood of success, ramifications for all UAW membership and need to build the Strike and Defense Fund.
What are my dues used for?
Each month, the amount of actual strike assistance benefits (weekly benefits and medical costs) are compared to 5% of the total amount received from the first two hours of dues. To the extent that the actual strike assistance benefits are less than 5% of the first two hours of dues for the month, the excess is accumulated for the 13th check rebate which goes to the Local Unions and the General Fund. With the 13th check rebate, the Strike and Defense Fund receives 20%, Local Union receives 42% and International receives 38%. When there is no 13th check rebate, the Strike and Defense Fund receives 44%, the Local Union 30% and the International 26%.
The funds going to the International Union’s General Fund cover a broad array of support services for local unions including but not limited to:
- Health and safety experts to investigate accidents and train members to fix health and safety issues in their workplaces
- Legal staff to help locals win fights in court; for example, UAW attorneys have won major cases preserving retiree health insurance
- Health care and pension experts to take on the employer’s consultants
- Website, magazine and other resources to keep members informed
- Financial analysts to help local committees understand their employer’s finances and business strategies, so that we can take them on and win
- Auditors to help local unions keep their books in good order, so they can stay accountable to members
- Assistance for locals and members who are facing hard times or natural disasters
- Organizers to build our density so we can win better agreements
Why did the delegates vote to increase dues?
First and foremost, the former Strike Assistance Fund had shrunk considerably in recent years and action was necessary to rebuild the Fund. There were many factors that led to this.
- In 2002, looking ahead to tough negotiations in 2003, delegates voted to use $75 million in strike fund assets to create an emergency operations fund to sustain operations in the event of a prolonged strike or other financial emergency. In 2006, in addition to changing the allocation of dues (see below), delegates made a one-time transfer of $50 million from the strike fund to the union’s general fund and authorized up to $60 million from strike fund assets to support organizing over each four-year convention cycle. At the same time, the International UAW and locals also began extensive internal reviews to cut costs and gain efficiencies in operations. This process continues today (see more, below).
- The allocation of dues changed in 2006, when the UAW was facing significant challenges: General Motors and Ford had both announced plant closings, the Daimler-Chrysler merger was beginning to unravel, Delphi was in bankruptcy, UAW ranks were being depleted by tens of thousands of members taking buy-outs and early retirement and employer opposition to union organizing had reached unprecedented levels. Recognizing the significance of the times, the UAW delegates to the 34th Constitutional Convention changed the allocation of dues to increase rebates to local unions and the International so that our union could address these challenges and continue to give members the resources they need to bargain strong contracts. At the time, the Strike Fund was well-funded at over $930 million. The changes provided additional resources to both local unions and the International, as long as the International Strike Assistance Fund remained above the trigger. But it also stopped contributions to the Strike Assistance Fund. The reallocation of dues to give more resources to local unions and the International to serve the membership would generally have kept the strike fund in a steady state. However, with membership shrinking and challenges to our union mounting, delegates to recent conventions also voted to transfer strike fund assets to other purposes.
The reallocation of dues from building up the International Strike Assistance Fund to covering operating costs was a prudent decision at the time, as were the transfers to allow the union to continue to serve the membership in perilous times while growing to build our bargaining power for the future. But several things occurred which negatively affected this plan:
- First, the 2008 recession quickly and permanently changed course for locals and the International, undermining much of the plans put in place in 2006. Operating losses swelled as membership fell nearly 25% in less than two years and investment income suffered due to the near collapse of financial markets. In 2010, delegates responded by authorizing four additional transfers of up to $25 million each from the strike fund to the union’s general fund. These transfers allowed the union to survive the crisis, but further depleted the strike fund.
- Likewise, International Strike Assistance Fund assets incurred significant investment losses from the global financial crisis, further eroding investment income as the pool of investable assets shrank.
- Beginning in 2011, unprecedented attacks on the bargaining rights of union members across the U.S. required significant expenditures to protect those rights. States such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan with a high number of UAW members were priority targets for these anti-union right-wing attacks. UAW and other unions have had to spend millions to fight back against the extreme attacks from wealthy corporate interests funded by billionaires such as the Koch brothers.
Why do we need a well-funded International Strike and Defense Fund?
A well-funded strike fund is a strong deterrent to employers who doubt the resolve of UAW members. When employers know that we have the resources to support long struggles, it is a compelling incentive for them to bargain fair and equitable contracts for our members without forcing a strike or lockout. To the extent that our strike fund continues to decline, employers who monitor our finances will be emboldened to test our mettle at the bargaining table. Employers’ respect for our financial strength has been one major reason why we have not had to take on long, national strikes in recent years.
While the deterrent value of the strike fund has been very effective, it is important to understand the cost of potential strikes. For all UAW members, strike benefits are decided by the IEB and are currently approximately $1,610 per member per month ($860 per month in strike assistance payments and $750 for health care costs). In addition, members on strike do not pay dues. In 2012, only 522 UAW members were on strike or locked out, and they received $4.9 million from the union’s Strike Assistance Fund.
What other changes did the Delegates pass at the convention affecting UAW’s financial future?
In addition to the half-hour dues increase, the delegates passed several key cost-reduction initiatives:
- One time transfer of $25 million from Strike Fund (versus the prior practice of $25 million for each year between conventions or a total of $100 million).
- Merger of Regions 1C and 1D: resulting in significant cost savings as offices and staff are consolidated.
- Elimination of a fourth Vice President: similarly, reducing this position and transferring assignments to remaining Vice Presidents will also save significant overhead.
How much will the dues increase mean to me?
The exact amount depends on your earnings – it would be half your hourly rate of pay. For a member earning $20 an hour, the increase would be $10 a month. That works out to a little over $2.30 a week, or roughly 33 cents a day. An online calculator is available to help you figure out the impact on your own situation.
Another way of looking at the increase is as the investment of 6 hours of pay each year in your union’s ability to take on contract fights in the future.
There are some areas where we can’t cut back. The purpose of our union is to win improvements for our members and a better life for all working people; we absolutely must have critical resources to take on fights with employers and win them. Above all, we must strengthen our membership in our core industries so we are not bargaining our way to the bottom. As long as employers are able pit UAW members and nonunion workers against one another, we’re not going to be able to win the kinds of gains we deserve. Cutting back on spending without a bigger plan to organize, build power and improve our members’ lives would be self-defeating.
How many staff does the UAW have?
Since 2003, staff has been reduced from 817 to 479 – a 41% reduction. Similarly, clerical has gone from 366 to 149 – a 59% reduction.
Nonunion workers in my industry are my competitors; why should we organize them?
From the 1950s through the early 1980s, the U.S. auto industry was virtually 100% union. But the nonunion sector of the industry has been growing steadily since the mid-1980s, and this trend has accelerated since the year 2000. In 2003, roughly 79% of the vehicles assembled in the U.S. came from unionized plants. By last year, that had fallen to roughly 55%.
The resulting loss of bargaining power has had a devastating impact on autoworkers – union and nonunion alike. Average hourly pay for autoworkers in this country peaked in 2003 (once inflation is factored in). Since then, purchasing power of an average hour’s pay has fallen more than 20%.
By organizing the competition, we can set standards for the entire industry. If we fail to organize them, our competitors will be setting standards for us.
Why should I support a dues increase when the UAW gives money to politicians I don’t like?
UAW participates in political action because elections have consequences, and our experience of recent years has driven this point home again and again. In state after state, anti-union legislators are proposing and passing laws designed to strip away the very right to collectively bargain. Whether it is taking away the right to have dues check-off for public workers or a wholesale change such as Michigan’s Right-to-Work law – legislators and their corporate benefactors have been busy eroding the very right of workers to stand together and have a voice in their wages and working conditions.
It is vital that we continue to advocate for candidates who will fairly represent their communities and the rights of workers. To that end, our union makes contributions to candidates at the local, state and federal level. Federal laws prohibit the use of dues dollars for campaign contributions, and this is true of most states as well. In these elections, the union’s spending on partisan political activity comes out of separate funds that are contributed for that purpose through our voluntary V-CAP program. We also use resources to educate membership and the general public on important matters that affect working families. When members have solid, factual information about issues, we can be more effective in our advocacy for fair trade, fair taxes and an economy that works for working people.
In any event, as proposed, any dues increase will be dedicated strictly to the Strike and Defense Fund. While it may be used to support member mobilization against specific threats to bargaining rights and other attacks on UAW members, it cannot and will not be used for partisan political activity.
Our union bylaws state that our dues are 2 hour a month so how can my dues be raised?
Article 3 of the International Constitution provides that it is “the supreme law of the International Union.” Therefore, changes to the UAW Constitution (dues obligations are spelled out in Article 16) will be controlling.
Where can I read the UAW Constitution?
Members (and the general public) can find the UAW Constitution in its entirety on our union’s web page, using the following link: https://uaw.org/page/uaw-constitution
Where can I find out more?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. While you’re here, sign up for the UAWire, if you haven’t already, to ensure you receive regular updates on the plan. You can also learn the latest from the UAW at our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/uaw.union.