UAW spent more than $80M on strike benefits as membership rose in 2019

DETROIT — The UAW paid out more than $80 million to workers who went on strike against General Motors for 40 days last fall, according to the union’s annual report filed Tuesday.

UAW members received weekly checks of $250 to $275 after the first week of the strike. The payments amounted to more than 10 percent of the roughly $800 million that was in the union’s strike fund before the walkout.

In addition to benefit costs, the UAW paid $23,626 to print strike signs at the end of September, according to its filing with the Department of Labor. The union paid $18,550 for more signs Oct. 17, and it paid a printing company nearly $62,000 for “strike materials” in early December.

The UAW also dealt with strikes against Mack Truck and Aramark, a custodial company that services multiple GM sites.

GM has said the strike cost it more than $3 billion.

The walkout occurred toward the end of a year in which UAW membership grew by more than 3,000 people, to 398,829, according to the filing. It was a turnaround from 2018, when the union lost about 35,000 members.

The union also paid hefty legal fees as some former officials were swept up in a years-long corruption probe.

The UAW paid $320,912 in legal fees for former President Dennis Williams and $24,599 for Gary Jones, who resigned as president in November and this month pleaded guilty to embezzling union dues.

“It’s been the longtime practice of the UAW to cover legal costs of former officers and staff involving things that occurred while they were in office at the UAW,” spokesman Brian Rothenberg told Automotive News. “Once someone would be charged or it was indicated they’d be charged, those legal fees are curtailed.”

Jones, who awaits sentencing, made $340,539 last year, including a $276,591 salary. The union also spent $6,938 for a security officer and daily transportation between home and work, a standard perk for UAW presidents.

Rory Gamble, who succeeded Jones as president, made $215,548 last year, including a $197,600 salary.

The union’s overall net assets fell to $994,119,758 from $1,004,894,958 a year earlier.

The deadline for the UAW and other unions to file their reports to the Labor Department was extended beyond the end of May because of the coronavirus pandemic.