The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, better known as the United Auto Workers (UAW), is an American labor union that represents workers in the United States (including Puerto Rico) and Canada. It was founded as part of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s and grew rapidly from 1936 to the 1950s. The union played a major role in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party under the leadership of Walter Reuther (president 1946–1970). It was known for gaining high wages and pensions for auto workers, but it was unable to unionize auto plants built by foreign-based car makers in the South after the 1970s, and it went into a steady decline in membership; reasons for this included increased automation, decreased use of labor, movements of manufacturing (including reaction to NAFTA), and increased globalization.
UAW members in the 21st century work in industries including autos and auto parts, health care, casino gambling, and higher education. The union is headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. It has more than 391,000 active members and more than 580,000 retired members in over 600 local unions, and holds 1,150 contracts with some 1,600 employers.
Technical, Office, and Professional (TOP) Workers
District 65, a former affiliate of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union that included as a predecessor the United Office and Professional Workers of America, merged into the UAW in 1989.
In 2008, the 6,500 postdoctoral scholars (postdocs) at the ten campuses of the University of California, who, combined, account for 10% of the postdocs in the nation, voted to affiliate with the UAW, creating the largest union for postdoctoral scholars in the country: UAW Local 5810.
The expansion of UAW to academic circles, postdoctoral researchers in particular, was significant in that the move helped secure advances in pay that made unionized academic researchers among the best compensated in the country in addition to gaining unprecedented rights and protections.