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Stress testing the UAW

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By Deepa Seetharaman

Today’s special report from Detroit, “Crunch time for America’s richest union,” takes a close look at the finances of the historic United Auto Workers union.

Over its 76 years, the UAW has built up a more than $1 billion war chest that has proven to be its big stick at the negotiating table and on the political stage.

Most of the UAW’s wealth sits in its strike fund, which stood at $763 million at end 2010. That money can only be used to fund strikes unless UAW representatives approve a change to the constitution, a step possible every four years.

The sheer size of the strike fund hides the weakening of the UAW’s finances, particularly since 2007, a period when the U.S. auto industry nearly collapsed and membership fell by about a fifth.