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.
Last week 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, Mich. 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, 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, Mo. In September 2007, the UAW dropped another $5,000 at the Lakes of Taylor Golf Club in Taylor, Mich., and another $9,000 at the Thunderbird Hills Golf Club in Huron, Ohio. Another bill for $5,772 showed up for the Branson, Mo., 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, Mich. 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.