United Auto Workers: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

United Auto Workers
Logo uaw.png
The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
United Auto Workers
Founded May, 1935
Members 431,037 (2008)[1]
Country United States
Affiliation AFL-CIO, CLC
Key people Ron Gettelfinger, president
Office location Detroit, MI, United States
Website www.uaw.org

The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, better known as the United Auto Workers (UAW), is a labor union which represents workers in the United States and Puerto Rico. Founded in order to represent workers in the automobile manufacturing industry, UAW members in the 21st century work in industries as diverse as health care, casino gaming and higher education. Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, the union has about 431,000 members[1] in approximately 800 local unions, which negotiated 3,100 contracts with some 2,000 employers.[2]



The UAW was founded in May 1935 in Detroit, Michigan, under the auspices of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) after years of agitation within the labor federation. The AFL had focused on organizing craft unions since its founding in 1881 by Samuel Gompers. But at its 1935 convention, a caucus of industrial unions led by John L. Lewis formed the Committee for Industrial Organization, the original CIO, within the AFL. Within one year, the AFL suspended the unions in the CIO, and these, including the UAW, formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

The UAW was one of the first major unions that was willing to organize African-American workers. The UAW rapidly found success in organizing with the sit-down strike — first in a General Motors plant in Atlanta, Georgia in 1936, and more famously in the Flint sit-down strike that began on December 29, 1936. That strike ended in February 1937 after Michigan's governor Frank Murphy played the role of mediator, negotiating recognition of the UAW by General Motors. The next month, auto workers at Chrysler won recognition of the UAW as their representative in a sit-down strike.

The UAW's next target was the Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford had promised that "The UAW would organize Ford over my dead body." Ford selected Harry Bennett to keep the union out of the company, and the Ford Service Department was set up as an internal security, intimidation, and espionage unit within the company, and quickly gained a reputation of using violence against union organizers and sympathizers (see The Battle of the Overpass). It took until 1941 for Ford to agree to a collective bargaining agreement with the UAW. By the end of the year, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor dramatically changed the nature of the UAW's organizing.

The UAW's Executive Board voted to make a "no strike" pledge to ensure that the war effort would not be hindered by strikes, and that pledge was later reaffirmed by the membership.

After the successful organization of the auto industry, the UAW moved towards unionization of other industries. For a time, the UAW even organized workers at bicycle fabrication and assembly plants in Cleveland and Chicago, including AMF, Murray, and later Schwinn Bicycle Co. The AMF and Murray plants later closed and were relocated to other states after increasing competition forced retooling, modernization, and a reduction in per-unit labor costs. In 1980, the Schwinn factory, hard hit by foreign competition and in need of complete modernization, also closed its doors.

At the UAW's constitutional convention in 1946 Walter Reuther won the election for president and served until his death in a small airplane accident in May 1970 — leading the union during one of the most prosperous periods for workers in U.S. history[citation needed]. In the 1960s, the UAW used its strategy of negotiating a contract with one major auto maker and applying it to others to secure a number of new benefits for auto workers, including fully paid hospitalization and sick leave benefits at General Motors and profit sharing in American Motors. The UAW also grew to include workers in other major industries such as the aerospace and agricultural-implement industries. The UAW founded WDET 101.9fm in Detroit, MI in 1948. The station was later sold to Wayne State University for $1 in 1952.

During the 1950s and 1960s, UAW members became one of the best paid groups of industrial workers in the country — placing them solidly in the middle class of American society[citation needed]. By the end of this period, changes in the global economy, competition from European and Japanese automobile makers, and management decisions at the U.S. automakers had already started to significantly reduce the profits of the major auto makers and set the stage for the drastic changes in the 1970s.

The UAW disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO on July 1, 1968, after Reuther and AFL-CIO President George Meany could not come to agreement on a wide range of policy issues or reforms to AFL-CIO governance.[3] On July 24, 1968, just days after the UAW disaffiliation, Teamsters General President Frank Fitzsimmons and Reuther formed the Alliance for Labor Action as a new national trade union center to organize unorganized workers and pursue leftist political and social projects.[4][5] Meany denounced the ALA as a dual union, although Reuther argued it was not.[3][6] The Alliance's initial program was ambitious.[7] But Reuther's death in a plane crash on May 9, 1970, near Black Lake, Michigan, dealt a serious blow to the Alliance, and the group halted operations in July 1971 after the Auto Workers (almost bankrupt from a lengthy strike at General Motors) was unable to continue to fund its operations.[3][8] The ALA formally disbanded in January 1972.[9] The UAW re-affiliated with the AFL-CIO on July 1, 1981.[10]

The situation for the automotive industry and UAW members worsened dramatically with the 1973 oil embargo. Rising fuel prices caused the U.S. auto makers to lose market share to foreign manufacturers who placed more emphasis on fuel efficiency. This started years of layoffs and wage reductions, and the UAW found itself in the position of giving up many of the benefits it had won for workers over the decades. By the early 1980s, the state of Michigan had been devastated economically by the losses in jobs and income within the state's largest industry. This peaked with the near-bankruptcy of Chrysler in 1979. As a result of plant closings, cities such as Flint, Lansing, and to a lesser extent Detroit began to lose population and businesses. In 1985 the union's Canadian division disaffiliated from the UAW over a dispute regarding negotiation tactics and formed the Canadian Auto Workers as an independent union. Specifically the Canadian division claimed they were being used to pressure the companies for extra benefits which went mostly to the American members.

The UAW has seen a dramatic decline in membership since the 1970s. Membership topped 1.5 million in 1979.[11] But because of restructuring, union busting, and the decline of the American domestic auto industry, membership fell to approximately 540,000 at the end of 2006[12] and to just under 465,000 members by the end of 2007. The last time the UAW had fewer than 500,000 members was in 1941.[11]

In late 2008, the union was lobbying Congress for a bailout to prevent the Big 3 Auto companies from filing for bankruptcy.

Beginning on 3 June 2009 or earlier Google detected automated malware downloads to visitors of the UAW website. [13]


One perception is that the UAW is to be blamed for the automotive industry crisis of 2008-2009. This viewpoint cites union workers' higher wages and more generous benefits compared to those working at non-union Japanese auto plants in the U.S. as one of the primary reasons for the poor competitiveness of the Big Three. In a November 18, 2008, New York Times editorial, Andrew Ross Sorkin clamed that the average UAW worker was paid $70 per hour, including health and pension costs, while Toyota workers in the US receive $10 to $20 less.[14] The UAW asserts that most of this labor cost disparity comes from legacy pension and healthcare benefits to retired members, of which the Japanese automakers have none. Nor is it clear that labor costs, which are approximately 10% of a car's total cost, were the decisive factor in the decline of American automakers. The Big Three already sold their cars for about $2,500 less than equivalent cars from Japanese companies, analysts at the International Motor Vehicle Program say.[15] According to the 2007 GM Annual Report, typical autoworkers earn a base wage of approximately $28 per hour. Following the 2007 National Agreement, the base starting wage was lowered to about $15 per hour.[16] A second-tier wage of $14.50 an hour, which applies only to newly-hired workers, is lower than the average wage in nonunion auto companies in the Deep South.[17]

One of the benefits negotiated by the the United Auto Workers was the jobs bank program, under which laid-off members received 95 percent of their take-home pay and benefits. More than 12,000 UAW members were paid this benefit in 2005.[18] In December 2008, the UAW agreed to suspend the program as a concession to help U.S. automakers during the auto industry crisis.[19]

UAW Management granted concessions to its unions in order to win labor peace, a benefit not calculated by the UAW's many critics.[20] The UAW has claimed that the primary cause of the automotive sector's weakness was substantially more expensive fuel costs[21] linked to the 2003-2008 oil crisis which caused customers to turn away from large sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks,[22] the main market of the American "Big Three" (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). In 2008, the situation became critical because the global financial crisis and the related credit crunch significantly impaired the ability of consumers to purchase automobiles.[23] The Big Three also based their respective market strategies on fuel-inefficient SUVs, and suffered from lower quality perception (vis-a-vis automobiles manufactured by Japanese or European car makers). The Big Three neglected development of passenger cars and instead focused on light trucks (which had better profit margins) in order to offset the considerably higher labor costs, falling considerably behind in these market segments to Japanese and European automakers.[24]

Supporters of the U.S. auto industry and the UAW point out that the automotive crisis extends across national boundaries, affecting car companies in Asia, Europe.[citation needed] Japanese carmaker Toyota expects its first loss in 70 years[25], Korean manufacturer Hyundai is offering to allow customers to return their new cars if they lose their jobs.[26] Sales for the first quarter of 2009 fell an average of 37 percent worldwide for Toyota, Nissan, and Honda,[27]. While Volvo, Scania, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Renault, Fiat, BMW, and Daimler are receiving bailouts from their respective home governments;[28] All are companies which are not organized by the UAW, and some are not unionized at all.

Commentators have also pointed out the fact that the success of GM's competitors is not at all attributable to their selling less expensive vehicles.[citation needed] UAW has argued that the decline of GM, rather than a rise in its labor costs, has been primarily a function of the deteriorating quality of and demand for its products.

See also


  1. ^ a b Office of Labor-Management Standards. Employment Standards Administration. U.S. Department of Labor. Form LM-2 labor Organization Annual Report. United Auto Workers. File Number: 000-149. Dated March 30, 2009.
  2. ^ Who We Are from UAW website. Retrieved 21 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b c Lichtenstein, Nelson. The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1995. ISBN 025206626X
  4. ^ Janson, Donald. "U.A.W. and Teamsters Form Alliance." New York Times. July 24, 1968; Stetson, Damon. "2 Biggest Unions Set Up Alliance." New York Times. May 27, 1969.
  5. ^ "Mr. Clean and the Outcast." Time. June 6, 1969.
  6. ^ Barnard, John. American Vanguard: The United Auto Workers During the Reuther Years, 1935-1970. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004. ISBN 0814329470
  7. ^ Stetson, Damon. "New Labor Group Offers Program." New York Times. May 28, 1969.
  8. ^ Salpuka, Agis. "U.A.W., in Debt, Halts Funds For Alliance With Teamsters." New York Times. July 6, 1971.
  9. ^ Salpuka, Agis. "A Labor Alliance to Be Dissolved." New York Times. January 25, 1972.
  10. ^ Peterson, Iver. "After 13 Years, Auto Union Joins A.F.L.-C.I.O. Again." New York Times. July 2, 1981.
  11. ^ a b "Drop in U.A.W. Rolls Reflects Automakers’ Problems," Associated Press, March 28, 2008.
  12. ^ Thomas, "UAW Membership, Dues Declined Last Year," Associated Press, April 12, 2007.
  13. ^ Safe browsing report for UAW.net website.
  14. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross. "A Bridge Loan? U.S. Should Guide G.M. in a Chapter 11." New York Times. November 18, 2008.
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ "General Motors Corporation 2007 Annual Report", p. 62.
  17. ^ Brenner, Mark and Slaughter, Jane. "Cutting Wages Won't Solve Detroit 3's Crisis." Detroit News. December 4, 2008.
  18. ^ Hoffman, Bryce G. "Jobs Bank Programs—12,000 Paid Not to Work." Detroit News. October 17, 2005.
  19. ^ Barkholz, David. "UAW Agrees to Suspend Jobs Bank, Gettelfinger Says." Automotive News. December 3, 2008.
  20. ^ Ivison, John. "Automotive Bailout Must Not Be Free Ride." National Post. March 2, 2009.
  21. ^ Tankersley, Jim. "No Easy Road for U.S. Auto Industry." Los Angeles Times. April 9, 2009.
  22. ^ "Gas Prices Put Detroit Big Three in Crisis Mode." Associated Press. June 1, 2008.
  23. ^ Vlasic, Bill and Bunkley, Nick. "Hazardous Conditions for the Auto Industry." New York Times. October 1, 2008.
  24. ^ Van Praet, Nicolas. "CAW Girds For War." Financial Post. June 4, 2008.
  25. ^ Fackler, Martin. "Toyota Expects Its First Loss in 70 Years." New York Times. December 23, 2008.
  26. ^ Datko, Karen. "Job worries? Hyundai Has A Deal for You." MSN Money. January 5 2009.
  27. ^ Bunkley, Nick. "Auto Sales For March Offer Hope." New York Times. April 2, 2009.
  28. ^ Saltmarsh, Matthew. "BMW Net Sinks; VW Warns on '09." New York Times. March 13, 2009; Schmid, Joseph. "Europe Vows Quick Review of Auto Bailout Plans." New York Times. February 26, 2009.


Further reading

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address