It hasn’t been a good few months for one-time United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams (2017 salary and expenses: $181,046). In June, Williams stepped aside from his position leading one of America’s most recognizable unions. In July, he was accused of involvement in a major union-related corruption scandal by a former UAW employee who pleaded guilty to violating labor relations laws. In September, it was further alleged that “high-level UAW officials used UAW funds to pay for extravagant meals, premium liquor, multi-month stays at condominiums, and multiple rounds of golf for little, if any, legitimate union business or labor-management purposes” even as Williams allegedly claimed “the UAW’s budget was under pressure.”
And while Williams hoped to retire quietly and enjoy the UAW’s ex-presidential perk of a union-provided cabin on Michigan’s Black Lake, where the UAW operates the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center, November has brought him another headache (although this one is more of the “bad optics” variety, not the “I’m not talking without a lawyer present” sort of scandal). The Reuther Center may be best known for its Black Lake Golf Course, which the union opened amid a SUV-fueled boom in 2000. It subsequently became a symbol of the UAW’s decline and financial mismanagement.
It turns out that financial mismanagement may have consequences for “union solidarity,” as the Detroit News reports that the UAW has put its budget before solidarity in choosing the builders:
Instead of using more expensive union laborers, the UAW has hired a nonunion electrician, a nonunion excavation company and is in talks to hire a nonunion plumber to work on the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath, 1,885-square-foot stone home at the UAW Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center in Onaway. The 1,000-acre retreat in northern Michigan is financed with interest from the union’s $721 million strike fund, which is bankrolled by worker dues.
While it remains to be seen what will come of the wide-ranging federal investigation into corruption at the UAW, what is clear is that union “solidarity” ends at the bottom line. It just happens to be the union’s bottom line.