Sunday, January 28, 2007

UAW builds up $874 million strike fund

Saturday, January 20, 2007
UAW builds up $874 million strike fund
With Big 3 contracts expiring in September, union's war chest has near-record balance.
Bryce G.Hoffman / The Detroit News

The United Auto Workers has amassed a war chest worth nearly $900 million and is keeping a grip on spending as the union and Detroit automakers brace for what promises to be some of the toughest contract talks ever.

The UAW's strike fund had a near-record balance of $874 million at the end of November. Union leaders disclosed the figure Friday during an online question-and-answer session with members.

"We are proud of the fiscal health of the fund and believe employers appreciate the significance of our strike fund reserves," UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn said in a joint posting during the chat.

They also said the UAW will not spend any of the $60 million it set aside for organizing during last year's constitutional convention until new contracts have been signed with the automakers.

The UAW master contract with General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group expires Sept. 14.

"In regards to the $60 million (we) are in the process of putting together plans, which will be submitted to the (international executive board) once we have successfully concluded 2007 national auto negotiations," Bunn said.

That suggests the UAW wants to keep that money in the bank in case of a possible strike.

"The size of the strike fund is an important symbol that the union is dealing from a position of strength," said Harley Shaiken, a labor expert at the University of California, Berkeley. The UAW also indicated that it may be trying to organize workers at DaimlerChrysler's financial services unit. Gettelfinger and Bunn did not directly answer a question about when a drive would begin, saying, "We typically do not talk about specifics in the early stages of a campaign." They asked workers interested in organizing to contact the union.

© Copyright 2007 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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