Recent adds to union don't stop steady fall April 15, 2004 BY JEFFREY MCCRACKEN FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER The United Auto Workers union continued its long, slow decline in membership in 2003, losing 14,000 more members and falling to its lowest level since 1942, according to UAW documents filed with the Department of Labor. UAW membership fell to 624,585 in 2003, down from 638,722 at the end of 2002. The drop came despite UAW successes in organizing thousands of workers at billion-dollar parts suppliers like Toledo-based Dana Corp. and Johnson Controls Inc. in Plymouth, not to mention some success in organizing graduate assistants on college campuses. Despite the drop in membership, the UAW increased the amount of union dues it collected in 2003 to $214.3 million, up from $209 million in 2002. The UAW peaked at 1.53 million members in 1969 and still had 1.5 million as of 1979 -- but as Detroit's automakers lose business, the union loses members. Since the late 1970s, Detroit's three automakers have lost a substantial share of the U.S. auto market to foreign automakers like Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. This has hurt UAW membership as General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group have slashed assembly-line jobs and closed plants. Meanwhile, the UAW has been unable to organize workers at Toyota and Honda. Automakers also have streamlined, needing fewer workers and fewer plants to build cars and trucks -- further cutting into hourly employees and UAW numbers. GM, for example, could build a whole new vehicle in just over 36 worker hours as of last year, compared to 47 worker hours in 1997. In essence, this means 1.5 fewer hourly workers are needed to build a vehicle than were needed six years ago. "In part, it's beyond the UAW's control," said Nelson Lichtenstein, a University of California-Santa Barbara labor history professor and author of a book on the UAW. "They are up against it because the transplants like Toyota or nonunion suppliers have lots of people to choose from who will work for $10 or $12 an hour and won't join the union. "The UAW needs to organize more supplier workers -- there are hundreds of thousands of them -- and not just assembly plants. Otherwise, there's an incentive" for the traditional Big 3, "though they'd never say it, to ship jobs off to sub-assembly suppliers." The UAW annual report also lists salaries of top UAW officials. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger made $136,600 in 2003, up from $125,200 in 2002, the year he was elected president. He is the highest-paid UAW official at the UAW's Solidarity House. Gettelfinger's predecessor, the late Stephen Yokich, was paid $155,645 in 2002, according to UAW documents. UAW Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn was paid $127,582, up from $119,691 in 2002. UAW Vice Presidents Dick Shoemaker, Gerald Bantom and Nate Gooden -- who oversee GM, Ford and Chrysler respectively -- were paid $122,000. Also, the UAW radio station United Broadcast Network lost $2.3 million in 2003 before it was shut down and liquidated in February 2004. It had lost $2.1 million in 2002. UBN went under owing the UAW a $15.2-million loan, which the union had to write off as a loss.