Last month Congress gave the Big 3 serious grief over them flying in private jets to Washington, to the point, they are to be sold according to the terms of their bailout. But has anyone even thought to take a look at the UAW’s balance sheet, assets or income?
So where do the UAW big-wig execs and workers go to relax? They head up to Onaway, Michigan to the UAW’s own personal golf club, as part of the union’s Walter and Mary Reuther Family Education Center. The UAW continues to own and operate a the $33 million lakeside retreat in Michigan, complete with a $6.4 million designer golf course. And it’s costing millions in upkeep to the UAW, at a loss.
First there is the Walter and Mary Reuther UAW Family Education center, which is located on Black Lake near Onaway, MI. According to the UAW’s website, the education center conducts conferences geared to the responsibilities of union officeholders. On the UAW website, you can see a video tour of the property. The center generally operates 11 months of the year and accommodates up to 450 students at one time.
The Center accommodations include 241 completely remodeled guest rooms, featuring lakeside rooms at Maxon Lodge, hotel-style rooms and fully equipped condos. Then there is a campground which is open to all UAW members. Campsites are equipped with sewer, water and electrical hookup with nearby indoor shower, toilet and laundry facilities. There is also a boat launching ramp and dock. But this is not the “black money hole.” It’s the adjacent golf course.
The Black Lake golf club and retreat, is the newest addition to the UAW’s Reuther Center, which are among the union’s biggest fixed assets which total $1.2 billion for net assets, is situated on “1,000 heavily forested acres along the southeast side of Black Lake.” According to Michigan Magazine, “Native trees such as ash, aspen, beech, birch, hemlock, maple, oak, red pine and white pine outline the course and provide habitat for an array of wildlife species in the area, including bald eagle, beaver, coyote, duck, fox, osprey, owl, stork and white tailed deer.”
According to it’s website, compliments include “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.” According to “Butcher and Associates”, the golf clubhouse has a pro shop, restaurant, full kitchen, locker rooms, a dining room for 150, an outdoor terrace, and refrigerated storage. Other related projects at the Club include a cart storage facility, maintenance garage, and the course restrooms and shelters. On the Black Lake Course website, is a video tour of the course.
And it’s lost $23 million in the past five years alone and yet the UAW tries to manage about a multibillion dollar pension plan that the Big 3 “owes” them.
The UAW covers costs for the Reuther Center from the interest it earns on its 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. 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. The 2007 UAW receipts – union dues, fees and other income – was $327.6 million, and it had spent $330.3 million.
The golf course and the resort are held by UAW=controlled holding corporations called the Union Building Corp, which is a not-for-profit organization that holds real estate for the union, records show. However, the golf course is operated by a for-profit corporation called UBG Inc., which was set up for just that purpose, according to Labor Department records. The education center, which reportedly has rooms to sleep 400 people, is operated by the for-profit UBE Inc. The operations were hit hard last year by a $5.9 million payment to an employee pension fund. [Hmmm… is this why the UAW is crying and screaming about their pension fund? Oh it gets better…]
Audits of both UBE and UBG by Clarence Johnson, a certified public accountant from Royal Oak, MI, said UBE had a negative retained earning of $20.6 million and UBG had a $4.2 million negative retained earning at the end of 2007. The two entities had loans payable to the UAW International worth a total of $24 million.
Aside from the loans, UAW International’s financial statements show expenses to the UBE for several conferences and other activities. In 2007 alone, the UAW International paid UBE $3.3 million for services.
Critics call it a resort for union leaders that wastes money from union dues. “it’s the members’ money that they’re spending on this thing,” said Justin Wilson, managing director of the Center for Union Facts, a union watchdog group. “The union has bigger issues at hand than managing a golf course.” “It’s funny that they call it an education center – it’s a resort. If I was a union member, I would prefer that they rented out a room at the Ramada Inn, ” Wilson added.
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 him. “We should be running a union – not a country club.”
Roger Kerson, a UAW spokesman has said that “The UAW family education center is an integral part of our union. It provides very important training and education activities for our members.”
It would seem that paying Union dues would give UAW members free access to the resort, however, that’s not the case. Union members are charged to belong. For a individual member, its $800 per year for a UAW retiree, and $1000 a year for a UAW member. Public membership is $1,200 per year. And if you wish to stay at the Black Lake Golf Club, it will cost you $74 a night if you are a UAW member for a single, and $92 if you are a guest.
So bailing out companies to support other “organizations” to keep properties, continue to allow junkets, and waste taxpayers money “par” for the course now?