• Jan 18, 2010
The United Auto Workers is many things to many people. To some, it's the reason why all of our manufacturing hasn't been shipped over to China. To others, UAW added costs are the reason why American cars can't compete with imports. Whatever your opinion, the facts are that the UAW is not nearly as strong as it once was. Back in 1979 the UAW claimed 1.5 million members on its rosters. In 2008 that number shrank to just 431,000 souls.

Obviously, something's got to give. And the UAW did give a little, agreeing to partially fund its Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Associations (VEBAs) with GM and Chrysler shares (as opposed to cash) when both automakers went bankrupt in 2009. Even more obviously, that's just not enough.

Meet the UAW's Black Lake compound. It sits on just over 1,000 acres in Onaway, Michigan. The main lodge was built back in the 1930s by a Detroit advertising executive. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball spent their honeymoon there. Notorious ex-boxer, Union buster and Henry Ford's right hand man, Harry Bennett was once late to a bargaining session because he was vacationing at the Black Lake. Bennett even showed photos to the UAW folks. UAW leader Walter Reuther replied, "after the revolution we will own that place."

And in 1967, that's exactly what happened. Purchased by the UAW to be a family education center, Black Lake was even given a world-class golf course in 2000 (ranked #34 in the world by Golf Digest). Trouble is, since 2005 Black Lake has lost $23 million. Obviously, with the state of not just the UAW but American auto making in general, this sort of extravagance won't stand. Says current UAW President Ron Gettlefinger, "We regret that current financial conditions require us to explore the possible sale of the property." The real stumbling block is Michigan's severely depressed real estate market, which might make selling Black Lake a less than profitable endeavor.

[Source: The Detroit News | Image: Black Lake Golf Club]


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  • 22 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oh no!! Not the golf course!!

      Say it ain't so!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have no problems with the UAW if its powers are used to prevent abuse and unsafe working conditions.

      What I have an issue is the UAW imposing ridiculous work rules and regulations that are based solely to require an ever increasing amount of union workers.

      Another issue is the "us" versus them that the UAW propagates. If workers would realize that a healthy and profitable employer is better for them in the long-term, they would rather try to help them succeed rather than just punch-in do the time and punch-out.

      I am not saying that upper management does not make mistakes and tend to pat their own backs and award themselves huge salaries and bonus that are large multiples of the average worker, but the UAW certainly has its mentality stuck in the 1930s, while most corporations have evolved eons on their relationship towards their workers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Glad it's going. There was never any good reason for them to own it, just revenge. All unions will only be safe when members are willing to stand up to stupid decisions by the leadership and to remember that other members are just that: other members of a labor movement, not of royalty or of a crime syndicate.
      • 5 Years Ago
      As far as organized crime, one of the largest organized criminal gangs around is in Texas. Tango Blast is a large hispanic gang that generally focuses on the drug trade. This is also the Texas Syndicate which is similar. Not to mention the trafficing of illegal immigrants from all over South and Central America.

      So, we get our share of this as well. Itallian mafia gangs or Hispanic drug gangs.. whatever I want neither.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Trouble is, since 2005 Black Lake has lost $23 million."

      Just curious if any UAW members have a problem with this? Were union dues going to support this?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Interesting, arguments. But many of you have forgotten why a union was created. Not here, but in Europe. Not because of autos, but because coal miners were only getting a nickle for days work. That nickle had to buy the days food, pay rent to the mine owner, for you had to live in the factory town, to work there, clothing, and such. There was usually an uproar that that followed at the end of the week, where you had to pay back more then you made. Thats when the owners hired in "detectives" to find and punish the "loud" ones. This happened even in civilized England and many of the other outlying areas. Including the United States. And here on MLK day, we remember that There are still slaves out there, Owners that refuse to pay a decent living wage to their employees that produce the work that makes the cat fat.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Let me ask you something: are UAW members still making a "nickel per day"? I don't think so; in fact, many of them make more than many people who get technical or scientific degrees after being in college for 5-6 years.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Took a lot of pension money to buy that golf course.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I didn't know the UAW owned a golf course. I'm willing to bet a lot of other people didn't either. Kinda makes me feel that much less sorry for the UAW.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Regardless of the counter productive impact unions had over free market, they have every right to exist in a democratic society.

      People need to wake up and understand the debate is not about unions' impact on jobs positively or negatively, it should be about corruption and criminal ties to organized crimes that are destructive to America's constitution.
        • 5 Years Ago
        There's no "arguing" about their having a right to exist any more than there is "arguing" over whether there is a freedom of religion or a freedom of speech.

        There is a right, and it's in the law.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Unions are past their prime. I will not argue that they have no right to exist, but if I had a choice I probably would opt out.

        Today, if an auto manufacturer started imposing crazy rules and low wages for employees that didn't have a union the employees would jump on the internet and tell the world about it. Less than a week would go by before everything would get fixed. No union dues would be needed, there wouldn't be a month long strike.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Paul34 - Uh, kinda like a major car company owning a golf course?

        http://stocktwits.net/thereformedbroker/2009/07/02/pssst-wanna-buy-gms-jersey-golf-course/

        At the end of the day, lots of people did a lot of stupid things...
        • 5 Years Ago
        My uncle is a MD and when he changed Hospitals the new Hospital gave him an ultimatum, join the union or he was fired...Because the Union didn't want non union doctors working in the hospital and management had to comply..Unions are a form of organized crime on top of my Uncle being forced into the union they already do racketeering in the form of "unions dues"

        The same corruptions which led to Unions has now reach Unions doing the same corruptions...Power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately.....
        • 5 Years Ago
        We're talking about a union, not a corporation here, folks. One is supposed to be association of workers for a specific purpose; the other is a money machine. I think a corporate golf course and then a course owned by a union are fairly different. If a company can afford to do such things, that's their thing to do - it's their money, and good for them for making enough of it (if they did it honestly).

        If a union is making enough money to be able to afford a golf course, then... why are they charging so much? Why do they have so much money? What is the point of the union anymore? The supposed purpose of a union is to be effective, not to make money (and be rich).
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Paul34 - A union owning a golf course is ridiculous... Kinda like a car company owning a golf course:

        http://stocktwits.net/thereformedbroker/2009/07/02/pssst-wanna-buy-gms-jersey-golf-course/

        • 5 Years Ago
        @Level,

        Did your uncle also change states? It's a matter of state law if you HAVE to join a union or not. If both jobs were in the same state, I'd say one of the two hospitals is breaking a state law and should be looked into.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Anyone else feeling a Muntz coming on?
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