By on September 24, 2011

My divorce cost me some $50,000 in legal fees alone – not to mention the true price of my freedom. If I would have been an UAW worker, my employer would have picked up the legal bill. For decades, UAW workers enjoyed free legal services, courtesy of the employer funded UAW Legal Services plan. If workers agree to the labor contract hashed out with GM, they better get a divorce quick, because the legal freebies will be phased out in 2014.

Ford and Chrysler workers also better settle their domestic issues in a hurry, because “UAW President Bob King has said he expects to use the agreement reached with GM as a framework for all three companies,” reports the Detroit News.

According to the paper, the legal service program employs about 200 attorneys. Its 65 offices in 20 states handle about 160,000 cases each year.’,

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36 Comments on “Shocking: UAW Members Will Have To Pay For Their Own Divorce...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    My divorce cost me some $50,000 in legal fees alone – not to mention the true price of my freedom.

    Holy Guacamole! You must have had quite a bit of property to worry about, Mr. Schmitt! Mine was about $2500 and that included paying for her legaly to change her name back. Of course I didn’t have an advasarial (at least not in the courtroom, lol) spouse.

    Now that I know this is one of their benefits, I wonder how much this has cost over the years?

  • avatar
    50merc

    Lawyers get rich on divorce cases. My daughter’s lawyer charged her five grand though there was nothing in controversy. Just the minimum paperwork filed with the court. I checked with another lawyer who advised me that fee is typical for such cases. The guy must have made over $500 an hour.

    UAW members don’t know how well they’ve had it. Back when GM had an assembly plant in OKC, one day my wife was in an OB/GYN’s waiting room. A couple of women sitting by her were talking about their pregnancies. One gal said “We decided to have another baby because my husband works at the GM plant so it’s free.” No concept at all that not only is medical care costly, only an oligopoly with old-style pricing power could afford to keep the UAW monopoly happy.

  • avatar
    UnclePete

    I know we’re going “off-road” here, but ouch Bertel, I did a collaborative divorce that cost about $6000. It would have been half that if my ex didn’t start rethinking everything at the end. (Of course I gave up at least $150K in stuff, but it’s stuff and I was tired of the drama.) I “traded up” on my second marriage and all is well.

    Which brings me back to the article. Maybe it’s a generational thing with the workers. My new wife’s grandmother is in her mid 70s and is a GM retiree. She has a great medical package but knows she’s very fortunate to have it. (I think growing up dirt poor in hillbilly country has something to do with that.)

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      (Of course I gave up at least $150K in stuff, but it’s stuff and I was tired of the drama.)

      That’s the definition of divorce: when you decide you’d be happier minus her AND half your stuff.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Here in Canada there is set limit on fees. I think a divorce is about $1500, anymore than that, your on your own.

    Without going into details, my last legal bill cost me $875. It involved a letter,and a simple agreement.

    I submitted it to the CAW Legal services. { you don’t have to use thier lawyer}

    The CAW legal services people cut me a check for $250. The Canadian Revenue Agency considers the legal service plan a seperate taxable benifit. If I use the plan, or not I still pay the tax.

    So as far as this retired worker thinks. No loss.

    Bertel ….I don’t how it works in the USA. But I would strongly doubt that the UAW would pick up a $50,000 legal fee. With all due respect,are your sure that the UAW plan doesn’t have a limit?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      When you consider that failures of the legal system are almost as crippling, economically speaking, as failures in healthcare, it’s possible to make a convincing argument for comprehensive socialized legal services.

      It’s also true that someone with legal issues to deal with does not have their attention on the job. There’s an efficiency savings here, especially with large workforces. It’s for similar reasons that many larger employers have arrangements for free therapy and counselling.

      Personally, I’d like to see the legal playing field levelled anyway, and turning lawyers into front-line civil-service clerks paid a flat wage by the government would give me a certain amount of schadenfreude.

  • avatar
    mike978

    So one of the perks of being a UAW member was free legal services and they are going. Those asking for reductions in benefits and salaries should be happy. Also having a range of benefits outside of a salary or healthcare is hardly unusual. My multinational pharma company had subsidized daycare for employees children, free gym membership etc. If GM, Ford and others agreed to this what is the issue?

  • avatar
    mikey

    Bertel…The UAW legal plan reads like this.

    Uncontested divorces,alomony,no support and custody matters-only jurisdictions where attorneys are not required to appear to finalize proceedings.

    So the answer is no. If you were a UAW worker your employer,would not pick up your 50K tab.

    In fairnes because, this is “the truth about cars”. I respectivly ask that you change the text. To reflect the truth.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Mikey – thanks for the information. I am shocked (!) that Bertel would miss this and just blast the UAW (unfairly in this case). Shocked I say!

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        That a union, ANY union, even gets involved with a divorce is mind-bending. No wonder the UAW drives their employers into bankruptcy with their demands.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @ highdesertcat….The union does not get involved in divorces,anymore than they get involved in “root canal therapy”

        The legal services was an employee benifit. Nothing more,nothing less.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        That a union, ANY union, even gets involved with a divorce is mind-bending.

        Your ability to misunderstand these things is quite remarkable.

        It’s a prepaid legal service plan, which is similar to insurance.

        As Mikey noted, this plan would not cover $50,000 divorces. http://www.uawlsp.com/theplan.asp This sort of plan would cover fairly simple stuff, such as updating a will or assistance with property insurance claims.

        You could buy a similar individual policy yourself, if you wanted to, for a few hundred bucks per year. As it so happens, the union members get taxed $80 per year for the benefit, which surely reflects the group rate that the union has been able to negotiate. Not a terrible thing, and not a big deal.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        What is quite remarkable is that you and Mikey defend this ‘benefit’.

        Let the employee buy this service if they want to have it. In my dad’s union-member days they didn’t have this crap and the unions were much better for it . No wonder the UAW is facing existential issues if this is one of the benefits.

        Anything to squeeze a buck out of its members. People who buy this service must know at the onset that their marriage is going to fail and then make it happen because the union will handle it for them.

        A prime example of people who can’t think for themselves and need a union to do the thinking for them. Disgusting!

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Let the employee buy this service if they want to have it.

        It’s none of your business. It’s their club, and they can decide what they want or don’t want their dues to pay for.

        I couldn’t care less what benefits that you have or don’t have, or what you drive, or how you furnish your house. I’m not so petty and bored that I’d feel the need to worry about it.

        Enjoy your race to the bottom. You’ll have to forgive me, but I won’t be joining you.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I didn’t know about this benefit that costs members. But I’m glad that Bertel brought it up. Interesting stuff on ttac. Brings out the worst in UAW shills.

        It only underscores what is wrong with a union that wants to be everything to everybody all of the time.

        Let’s go out and organize the transplants! Without those employees the UAW may not survive! We need more dues paying members in this exclusive club that bargains their employees out of a job and their employers into bankruptcy.

        And you would defend this? You’re already at the bottom, bud. Have been there for quite awhile.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    What more can we possibly squeeze out of our employer? This must have the uaw s number one concern during the golden years. Its no wonder so much hate has been directed toward them. Have they learned anything?

  • avatar
    derm81

    Mikey is right…that huge tab would not be picked up. Surprised this got a green light.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Boy, did you guys do the divorce trip wrong. When the first wife and I split, we passed on lawyers and went for a paralegal handling the paperwork thru the divorce mill of Elk County, PA (we were PA residents at the time). Total cost: $75.00. $25.00 out of my pocket, $25.00 out of Sally’s, and $25.00 taken from the household bills account. Both parties walked out with whatever they brought into the marriage, anything bought in the 11 years following was negotiated in less than an hour. Sally’s dad bought out my half of the house.

    We’re still friends, by the way. Biggest comment we got at the time from our friends was, “If you can divorce this civilly, why are you?”

  • avatar
    Almost Jake

    When I used to travel through Alabama, I used to see roadside advertisements for an attorney who did divorces for under $500. You could reach his office at 1-800-BAD-LOVE.

  • avatar
    stuki

    So I guess even the UAW exists for the benefit of lawyers, rather than auto workers. How surprising.

  • avatar
    NewShimmer

    The race to the bottom continues. Not surprising. What is surprising is how many people have slurpped the Kool-aid and believe the trend to lower wages and benefits is in their best interest. The have even been conditioned to applaud when a middle class person loses something and at the same time think it’s un-American to make the richest 1% pay the same % of tax that they were paying when our economy was in good shape in the 1990s.

  • avatar

    Looks, as if Bertel had a divorce (not the collaborative type) in Germany. Fees & lawyers (and other collateral costs) may add up, even if you are not a millionaire.
    Regarding the UAW stuff: I’d think that you can have a legal expenses insurance, even in the US, at reasonable prices, so no UAW member will have to file for an untimely divorce.

  • avatar
    NewShimmer

    This is a really efficient post, it allows the haters to hate on the lawyers and the UAW at the same time.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    I have worked for several companies that offered a benefit like that.

    Not unusual at all, just like some companies have Vision care for example. In many cases you just get a discounted rate anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      +1. It does seem both with this article and the one about a new compact truck (https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/you-can-thank-the-uaw-for-a-truck-nobody-wants/) Bertel has a definite perspective on things!
      I hope for the sake of consistency that Toyota, Honda et al do not offer this for their workforces.

  • avatar
    Advo

    How much does it cost in the States to have a pre-nup agreement with the updates needed to keep it valid (due to change in financial situations or whatever/whenever is required)?

    Maybe that’s the way to go for people afraid of messy divorces and the legal costs.

  • avatar
    AJ

    I’m surprised the UAW workers haven’t also put their lawyers on the line for a few hours a week in order to take additional coffee brakes. Oops, don’t give them any ideas.

  • avatar

    My divorce was in the great state of New York, which still clings to the principle of fault in divorces. That, and a Hamptons waterfront can keep lawyers busy for a great deal of hours. …

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I’m not a UAW member. Yet the last two companies I worked for offered legal services as an employee benefit. Nothing to see here…

  • avatar
    faygo

    is Bertel (or Ed) going to address the fact that the plan isn’t as he represented it in the original piece ?

    I have nothing but contempt for the way the UAW and the Detroit Three have set up things in prior (and likely future) contracts but this piece is headline grabbing sensationalism without proper research into what’s offered in the plan. not close to “the truth”.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @faygo I totally disagree with your opinion, and thoughts, on the Detroit Three and the UAW. As far as the future goes? Thats a toss of the dice.

      However you have every right to express your thoughts, and opinions,based on the TRUE facts.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        don’t get me wrong, I _work_ for one of the Detroit Three :-) I totally understand why the UAW (and unions in general) were and continue to be important in many industries, but the way the UAW and the companies have let things get over the years doesn’t do either side much good. unions are sooooo easy to demonize that they become a punching bag for everyone.

        however, my point here being that the facts behind the program Bertel is skewering here appear to be much different than he made them out to be, so my issue is more with sloppy journalism than the content involved.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @faygo…I hear ya. As a former UAW/CAW member, I do agree with you, to a point.

    As far as the Legal plan goes. I couldn’t care less if we lose it. I’ve paid more in taxes,than I ever recieved in benifits.

    Agreed..it was sloppy journalism, but at TTAC its the exception not the rule.

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