President Bush and the Democrats are happily hammering out the final details of the UAW bailout. The union fatcats are laughing all the way to the…golf course. Their gold-plated golf course. Oh, wait, President Bush forgot to mention it.
And while everyone’s blabbering about “concessions,” here’s a question: If the auto CEOs have to give up their jets, what about the UAW brass and their posh resort?
Black Lake Golf Course
“Owned and operated by the United Auto Workers union, Black Lake is a public course that provides UAW members and retirees substantial discounts from the regular greens fees. But even at regular rates of up to $95 per round, Black Lake is worth the price. Tee time reservations are accepted up to 14 days in advance for UAW members, and three days in advance for public play.”
Black Lake Golf Club is the newest addition to the UAW’s Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center, situated on 1,000 heavily forested acres along the southeast side of Black Lake, one of Michigan’s largest inland lakes near Onaway, Michigan.
Black Lake Golf Club complements the Center’s recreational facilities, which now include a beautiful gym with two full-sized basketball courts, an Olympic-size indoor pool, and exercise and weight room, table-tennis and pool tables, a sauna, beaches, walking and bike trails, softball and soccer fields and a boat launch ramp.
The UAW selected one of golf’s most acclaimed course architects, Rees Jones, to design an environmentally responsible, championship caliber course. It was a challenge eagerly embraced by Jones, Golf World Magazine’s “Architect of the Year” in 1995.
Like everything else we’re subsidizing, it’s a money pit:
Down a lonely country road far from the interstate hangs a banner at the UAW’s golf course: “Public welcome.” But a review of the golf course and adjacent education center’s financial statements indicate that not enough people have been visiting.
The UAW International’s golf course and education center operations on 1,000 acres near Onaway have together lost $23 million over the past five years, independent audits obtained by the Free Press show. Both are run as for-profit corporations, according to paperwork filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, and the UAW has been propping them up with loans.
“There’s a lot of debate over what to do,” said Arthur Wheaton, a union expert from Cornell University. “They’ve been having trouble there trying to get enough people to go through there to justify the expense,” he added.
…While the UAW International has a huge reserve of money, the union filed financial records with the federal government stating that it spent about $2.7 million more than it took in during 2007 — the third time over the past five years that the union spending exceeded receipts, records show.
“All you have to do is look at the membership trends and realize that there was a golden age when they could easily support the education center,” said Hal Stack, director of the Labor Studies Center at Wayne State University.
“It could be that either things turn around or they sell it,” he added.
From a peak of 1.5 million members in the 1970s, the UAW ranks have dropped to just 465,000 regular members, according to its most recent federal filings.
In 2007 the UAW had receipts — union dues, fees and other income — of $327.6 million and it spent $330.3 million. While losing members, the UAW International, since at least 2000, has been able to hold fairly steady in the amount of money it brings in and spends, according to federal records. It has $1.2 billion in net assets.
Gregg Shotwell, a UAW activist, is not troubled to learn that the education center is losing money. “When you are educating and training union members, that’s the business of the union. That’s never a loss,” Shotwell said.
But the golf course is a different story to Shotwell. “We should be running a union — not a country club,” he said.
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