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The bottomless UAW money pit

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By Michelle Malkin  •  December 31, 2008 04:11 AM

Two weeks ago, I told you about the UAW’s gold-plated golf course. Now, the rest of the story. As required by federal law, unions must file yearly disclosure documents with the Labor Department. I looked up the LM-2 form for the UAW’s 2007 annual report (No. 000-149). My syndicated column today shares some choice morsels from the annual report and reviews the union bosses’ long history of pilfering workers’ dues for their personal enjoyment and gain — including moronic investments in a doomed airline, doomed radio network, and doomed Palm Springs resort. Thanks to George Bush and the bipartisan bailout enablers, what the UAW did do its own workers it will now do to taxpayers. We’re porked.

What a way to ring in the New Year, huh? Make sure your congressional reps know about this. Here’s how to write them.

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The UAW’s money-squandering corruptocracy
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2008

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The UAW golfed. While carmakers soak up $17 billion in taxpayer bailout funds and demand more for their ailing industry, United Auto Workers bosses have wasted tens of millions of their workers’ dues on gold-plated resorts and rotten investments. The labor organization’s money-losing golf compound is just the tip of the iceberg.

Earlier this month on my blog, I noted that the UAW owns and operates Black Lake Golf Course — a “championship caliber” course opened in 2000 that’s part of a larger “family education center” and retreat nestled in 1,000 acres of property in Onaway, Michigan. Spearheaded by former UAW president Steve Yokich, the resort also includes “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.” Like everything else we’re subsidizing these days, the UAW’s playground is a money pit. The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this year that the golf course (valued at $6 million) and education center (valued at $27 million) have together lost $23 million over the past five years. While membership in the union has plummeted, the UAW retains assets worth $1.2 billion.

Curious about how the UAW will be spending my money and yours, I sifted through the union’s most recent annual report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (which you can find at unionreports.gov). Who knew hitting the links was so central to the business of making cars?

In May and November 2007, the UAW forked over nearly $53,000 for union staff meetings at the Thousand Hills Golf Resort in Branson, Missouri. In September 2007, the UAW dropped another $5,000 at the Lakes of Taylor Golf Club in Taylor, Michigan and another $9,000 at the Thunderbird Hills Golf Club in Huron, Ohio. Another bill for $5,772 showed up for the Branson, Missouri golf resort. On Oct. 26, 2007, the union spent $5,000 on another “golf outing” in Detroit. In May and June 2007, UAW bosses spent nearly $11,000 on a golf tournament and related expenses at the Hawthorne Hill Country Club in Lima, Ohio. And in April 2007, the UAW spent $12,000 for a charity golf sponsorship in Dearborn. In August 2007, the UAW paid nearly $10,000 to its for-profit Black Lake golf course operator, UBG, for something itemized as “Golf 2007 Summer School.” UBG had nearly $4.4 million worth of outstanding loans from the union. Another for-profit entity that runs the education center, UBE, had nearly $20 million in outstanding loans from the union.

Perhaps, the union bosses might argue, they need all this fresh air and exercise to clear their heads in order to make wise financial decisions on behalf of their workers. If only. UAW management has proven to be a money-squandering corruptocracy with faux blue-collar trim. Former UAW head Yokich, who built the Black Lake black hole is also responsible for bidding $9.75 million of workers’ funds in a botched bid to purchase the gated La Mancha Resort Village in Palm Springs. The 100-room walled resort with spas, poolside massages, and a “croquet lawn lit for night use” was on the verge of bankruptcy with $5.2 million in debt. Despite outrage from rank-and-file union members who thought one gold-plated golf resort was quite enough, leaders defended the La Mancha bid because, as union spokesman Paul Krell put it, “‘You can never tell if you are going to become snowbound.” Always putting the workers first!

That deal didn’t go through, but the UAW’s quixotic dalliance with a failed airline did. In February 2000, the union poured $14.7 million into Pro Air, a Detroit start-up airline that, well, didn’t get off the ground. Plagued by safety problems, the feds shuttered the company less than a year later. The union didn’t fare much better in its venture with a liberal radio network. In 1996, union heavies got the bright idea to invest $5 million in United Broadcasting Network, a left-wing precursor to Air America that the UAW hoped to use to spread its corporate-bashing propaganda. They shelled out for a $2 million, state-of-the-art studio in Detroit and incurred years of losses of a reported $75,000 a month before closing the network down in 2003.

And while the UAW and carmakers cry poor, they’ve operated massive joint funds for years that have paid for lavish items such as multi-million-dollar NASCAR racer sponsorships and Las Vegas junkets. The dire economic downturn hasn’t changed the behavior of profligate union bigs at the front office or the shop floor. Local Detroit TV station WDIV recently caught local UAW bosses Ron Seroka and Jim Modzelewski — both of whom make six-figure salaries — on tape squandering thousands of hours of overtime on such important labor security matters as on-the-clock beer runs and bowling tournaments.

At least the groveling Big 3 CEOs gave up their corporate jets. Where’s the public flogging for the greed-infested UAW fatcats reaching into our pockets to keep them afloat?

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Postscript I. Here’s more on the UAW golf course and its deadbeat UAW managers. Local county official Dennis Lennox e-mailed the following press release yesterday detailing how the union has avoided taxes on its tony resort:

UAW gets around paying fair share of taxes for lakeside resort

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (Dec. 29, 2008) — The United Autoworkers Union has repeatedly tried to get around paying the assessed property taxes on a $33 million private resort for members and their families in recent years, which has impacted funding for education and other basic public services in rural Northern Michigan.

Public records indicate the union has challenged Cheboygan County’s Waverly Township in the state Tax Tribunal – forcing multiple reductions over the past four years. The legal challenges come at a time when Cheboygan County struggles to fund cash-strapped schools, which rely heavily on property tax assessments.

“Shame on the UAW for not paying its fair share towards educating Cheboygan County’s next generation,” said County Drain Commissioner-elect Dennis Lennox (R-Topinabee). “The UAW is using its $1.2 billion net worth to get around the system and its responsibility to pay the same taxes that hard-working families pay without dispute.”

Published reports indicate the resort – formally known as Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center – has lost $23 million over the past five years. The UAW covers costs of the resort by using the interest it earns on the strike fund, according to tax documents, but massive losses in the past five years have forced the union to make heavy loans to keep the center afloat.

Appealing assessments to the Tax Tribunal is perfectly legal, though few local governments can afford to mount a defense against the UAW’s legion of lawyers in today’s bleak economic climate.

The situation in Waverly Township was made worse by the inaction of former UAW lawyer-turned-County Commissioner Leonard Page (D-Grant Township), who has avoided helping Waverly Township despite assurances at County Commission meetings that he would help end the long-standing dispute.

Postscript II. Didn’t have room in the piece to get into the notorious nepotism/extortion case involving UAW Local 594. Here’s the 2007 DOJ press release announcing the sentencing of two union thugs found guilty in the scandal:

Two top former union officers from southeastern Michigan were sentenced to terms of probation on charges of conspiracy to demand from General Motors Corporation (GM), the authority to amend the terms of the national labor agreement between GM and the United Auto Workers (UAW) when they were not authorized to do so; and in conjunction with that, conspiracy to extort from GM, skilled trades positions of employment for two specified non-GM and non-UAW individuals whom the union officers knew were not qualified or entitled to those positions, United States Attorney Stephen J. Murphy announced today.

Murphy was joined in the announcement by Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena, of the Detroit Division, and James Vanderberg, Special Agent in Charge, United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

Sentenced today by United States District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds were:

Donny G. Douglas, 65, of Holly, Michigan, on both counts, to two years probation with six months home confinement on electronic tethering, in addition to 100 hours of community service, and a $4,000 fine. At the time of the offenses, Douglas was employed as a UAW International Servicing Representative.

Jay D. Campbell, 65, of Davisburg, Michigan, on both counts, to two years probation with six months home confinement on electronic tethering, in addition to 100 hours of community service, and a $4,000 fine. At the time of the offenses, Campbell was employed as the Chairman of the Shop Committee and chief negotiator for UAW Local 594.

Douglas and Campbell were found guilty on June 27, 2006, after a jury trial, of the offenses of conspiracy to violate the Taft-Hartley Act, and conspiracy to extort under the Hobbs Act.

United States Attorney Stephen J. Murphy said, “Abusive and extortionate practices increase the costs of doing business for our local employers and undermine the confidence in the integrity of our community’s essential commercial activity. Any criminal extortion activity like this, which we consider to be serious and abusive of voluntary participation in the marketplace, will be pursued with vigor, as it was in this case.”

The evidence presented at trial showed that between approximately August 1995 and August 1997, Douglas and Campbell, using their union positions, conspired to demand from GM the hiring of Campbell’s son and another individual, who was the son of a former union official, into skilled trades positions, when Douglas and Campbell knew those two individuals were not qualified for those positions and when such hiring was in violation of the normal hiring process that existed in the union contract with GM. Furthermore, these demands by Douglas and Campbell threatened to delay or prevent the settlement of various negotiations that occurred between Local 594 and GM during those three years, culminating with the threat to prolong an 87-day strike that occurred in 1997. As a result of these illegal demands by Douglas and Campbell, the two individuals were hired by GM into skilled trades positions so as to avert the continuation of the 1997 strike.

Murphy commended the work of Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey W. Dancer of the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, and Special Agent David B. Rogers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney James M. Wouczyna and Trial Attorney Vincent J. Falvo, Jr., from the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, Labor Management Unit in Washington, D.C.

Rank-and-file workers furthered charged that Local 594 bosses embezzled more than $480,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit against ex-president Donny G. Douglas and to pay legal bills.

What does the UAW stand for? Unending Abuse and Waste.

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