Insight and investigations from our expert reporters
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.
A year ago, Nick Carey went on a road trip around America for a project called “Route to Recovery” that took him to places hit hardest by the recession. Nick went to Saginaw, Michigan, this time for a follow-up special report on the manufacturing sector and structural unemployment: “Is America the sick man of the globe?”
One of the characters he met was Olen Ham, a retired GM worker and UAW member who is among the last of those who took part in the historic “Sitdown Strike” in 1936 that he says helped create America’s middle class. You can hear from Olen in this video: