Now that the United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America International Union will own a very substantial part of Chrysler, shouldn’t we start thinking of it as a kind of politically well-connected corporate special interest rather than just a “workers” organisation?
As Tim Carney points out in the Washington Examiner, it’s not very clear that the UAW gives politicians more than four times as much money as the PACs of Exxon, Halliburton, Peabody Coal, and Lockheed Martini combined. What’s more, the internal spending of the UAW raises questions whether it is really representing anyone but its own management. It has all the markings of an out-of-control corporate management.
Peer deeper into the UAW’s finances, and it starts to look even more like a big business. The organisation sits on nearly $1.2 billion in investments. This is money the UAW took from the paychecks of workers, money that now functions as an endowment out of which the union pays its staff and subsidizes its golf resort.
Black Lake Golf Club, which the UAW brags is “one of the finest anywhere in the nation,” is owned by the union. Situated at the very top of Michigan, a drive of more than four hours from Detroit, it’s not exactly accessible to the union rank and file.
The resort is subsidized by workers’ paychecks, too—the union currently has $29.6 million in loans outstanding to the resort. That’s not their only posh real estate. The UAW’s Washington headquarters, home base for the union’s $1.6 million-a-year lobbying operation, is a beautiful $2.98 million townhouse in the DuPont circle neighbourhood.
While UAW membership has fallen by 32.5 per cent since 2002, the national headquarters has kept its spending nearly the same—a reduction of only 1.9 per cent. Add these facts together, and it starts to look like the union management exists largely to preserve union management.
These are the people who would, practically speaking, own Chrysler under Obama’s plan. These are the benefactors of Obama’s upturning bankruptcy law and threatening investors.
But Obama’s team will maintain that it’s “the workers” who are taking ownership of Chrysler under their plan. When Obama and Democrats extend future bailouts and subsidies to Chrysler, they will have even more reason to claim that they are simply helping the workingmen. In truth, subsidies and special favours for the UAW are corporate welfare, and considering the UAW’s political activities, the right word might be crony capitalism.
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