UAW’s legal fees for executive board members mount

DETROIT — The UAW in 2021 spent more money on legal fees for fewer officers than it did in 2020, according to an annual financial report filed Thursday with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The union disclosed it spent $36,069 on legal fees for President Ray Curry, and $113,016 on legal fees for outgoing Vice President Cindy Estrada, who heads the union’s Stellantis department.

The union in 2020 paid out nearly $30,000 in legal fees for four officers: $10,888 for Region 8 Director Mitchell Smith; $10,718 for Region 9A Director Beverley Brakeman; $6,683 for Curry; and $1,210 for Estrada.

Both figures are still significantly smaller than what the UAW spent on Ex-President Dennis Williams, who is now in prison for embezzling money from the union. In 2019, the UAW paid $320,912 in legal fees defending Williams and $24,599 for defending Ex-President Gary Jones, who is also in prison.

All told, 16 individuals have been charged — and 16 have pleaded guilty — in the U.S. government’s ongoing UAW corruption probe that has resulted in a six-year period of oversight for the union.

According to the UAW’s annual report, Curry collected total compensation, including expenses, of $272,726 in 2021 after being elevated to president following the early retirement of his predecessor, Rory Gamble.

Estrada, who announced her impending retirement last month, collected total compensation of $319,321 including the legal fees; Vice President Terry Dittes, who also recently announced an impending retirement, made $238,144; Secretary-Treasurer Frank Stuglin made $209,842; and Vice President Chuck Browning made $208,924.

The UAW’s net assets rose slightly in 2021 to nearly $1.1 billion, up from about $1 billion in 2020. The union’s strike fund, tapped into during a 40-day walkout at General Motors in 2019, rose slightly to $815 million from $790 million a year ago, according to a union spokesman.

Earlier this week, ahead of the report’s release, Curry reported that membership fell roughly 6 percent to 372,254 last year. He attributed the dip to the end-of-year timing of the report, since payroll and dues processing was delayed by end-of-year downtime or temporary layoffs because of the semiconductor shortage.

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