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Auto industry rebound drives UAW union membership growth

March 29, 2013|By Jerry Hirsch | This article has been corrected. See note below for details.
  • Union workers at a G.M. plant in Kansas City, Kan., learn about the automaker's expansion plans earlier this year. The auto industry rebound is pushing membership growth at the UAW.
Union workers at a G.M. plant in Kansas City, Kan., learn about the automaker's… (David Eulitt / MCT )

Thanks to a rebound in the auto industry, the UAW is reporting a growth in union membership.

The UAW, which represents workers at the American auto companies as well as some public sector workers and even casino employees, said it finished last year with 382,513 members, up from 380,716 in 2011.

While the growth was small in the last year, the tally is a big jump from the 355,191 workers the UAW represented back in 2009, the start of the industry’s recovery from the recession and bankruptcy reorganizations of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group.

Direct union employment grew at a much faster rate last year, jumping by about 7,000 workers combined at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, estimated Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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The UAW lost membership in the other sectors it represents, which is why growth for the entire union for the year was less than 2,000, Dziczek said.

The largest local in the union is public sector workers in Lansing, she said.

[For the record: 11:35 a.m. March 29: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the UAW's largest public sector local was in Detroit. It is in Lansing.]

However, the auto industry hiring has been “very strong” and is likely to grow even faster if the U.S. economy improves, Dziczek said.

“UAW membership continues on a steady path of recovery, even in the face of concerted attacks on workers and collective bargaining,” said UAW President Bob King. 

 “Our 2011 collective bargaining agreements with the domestic automakers resulted in investment commitments of $20 billion in communities across America through 2015, so we anticipate continued membership growth for the next two years,” King added.

New members organized recently by the UAW include thousands of casino employees, workers at Southern auto parts facilities in Alabama and Kentucky, and workers at Tulsa Bus in Tulsa, Okla., he said. 

The UAW has still, despite multiple campaigns, to organize major import brand auto factories, operated by Kia, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Nissan, among others, in the South, the region where there has been the most auto employment growth over the last decade.

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