For the first time in over 40 years, members of the UAW will be paying higher union dues. The passing of the controversial measure will see employees pay the equivalent of an extra half hour of pay each month ($7 to $14, depending on wage level), in addition to the two-hours-per-month rate that's been in place since 1967.

Faced with a decrease in membership and an utter inability to unionize workforces in the southern, foreign-owned factories of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia and Toyota, the UAW has been running an operating deficit of $30 to $40 million for the past few years. To balance the budget, it's been borrowing from the union's strike fund, siphoning out $25 million each year from an estimated total that sat around $930 million in 2006. It's now valued below $630 million.

The passing of this increase will give the union an extra $49 million to play with each year, which supporters claim would be used to end the annual transfer and shore up the dwindling strike fund. That, in turn, is key to the union's bargaining power as negotiations with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler approach.

It wasn't an easy decision, though, with plenty of dissenting opinions.

"I don't think it is the time," said Rich Boyer of UAW Local 140 to MLive. "This membership is divided. If we increase these dues now and don't go to the bargaining table and get significant increases in wages, we are in trouble."

Still, it's a move that's been a long time coming, according to the measure's proponents.

"The UAW is the only organized union that has not been raised in almost 50 years," said UAW Local 140's president, Mark Dickow to MLive. "It's about time."

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