United Automobile Workers


United Automobile Workers
UAW

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in full United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)

U.S. industrial union of automotive and other vehicular workers, headquartered in Detroit.

The UAW was founded in 1935, when the Committee for Industrial Organization (see AFL-CIO) began to organize automotive workers. The union successfully countered automakers' initial resistance with sit-down strikes and a 1937 Supreme Court decision upholding the right to organize as declared in the Wagner Act. General Motors Corp. was the first to recognize the UAW, and most other automakers followed suit, though Ford Motor Co. continued its resistance until 1941. Under Walter Reuther, the union won contracts providing for cost-of-living adjustments, health plans, and vacations. Reuther's friction with George Meany led the UAW to withdraw from the AFL-CIO in 1968. A short-lived alliance with the Teamsters was dissolved in 1972, and the UAW rejoined the AFL-CIO in 1981. Competition from foreign imports eroded the union's benefits in the 1980s and '90s.

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▪ North American industrial union
in full  International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America , also called (1941–62)  United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America  and  (1935–41)  United Automobile Workers of America 

      North American industrial union of automotive and other vehicular workers, headquartered in Detroit, Mich., and representing workers in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

      The creation of the United Automobile Workers resulted from attempts made by the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) to organize automotive workers. Until the passage of the National Labor Relations Act ( Wagner Act) in 1935, automotive industry representatives refused to yield. The union's rank-and-file organizers retaliated by organizing “sit-down” strikes similar to those that had been effective in France. The success of these strikes, together with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's election in 1936 and the Supreme Court's decision to sustain the Wagner Act the following year, prompted automobile manufacturers to change their policy. General Motors (GM) was the first company to recognize the UAW as the bargaining agent for its employees, and most of the industry soon followed. Violent conflict persisted, however, before the Ford Motor Company and the UAW finally came to terms in 1941.

      Walter Reuther (Reuther, Walter), an early and vigorous labour organizer, became president of the union in 1946 and held that position until his death in 1970. He was also elected president of the CIO (by this time renamed the Congress of Industrial Organizations) in 1952. Under Reuther's leadership, the UAW signed a series of multiyear contracts with the major automotive manufacturers that set the standard for all industrial unions in the United States. The contracts guaranteed wages that would be adjusted to the cost of living, health plans, annual vacations, and unemployment benefits to supplement those provided by the government.

      When the American Federation of Labor (American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations) (AFL) and the CIO merged in 1955, Reuther retained important leadership positions. Only George Meany (Meany, George), president of the combined AFL–CIO (American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations), was more powerful. Friction between the two men caused the UAW to withdraw from the AFL–CIO in 1967, with the UAW joining the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Teamsters Union) the same year. Dissatisfaction with the corruption in the Teamsters, however, led to dissolution of the alliance in 1972.

      In 1981 the UAW reaffiliated itself with the AFL–CIO. Union members subsequently had to concede some of their hard-won economic benefits to help American car manufacturers compete against foreign imports. This policy provoked the separation of Canadian autoworkers from the parent body in 1985–86. In 1996 the UAW began a new era of negotiations with the three major American automakers—GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Collective bargaining focused on job security, a lump-sum bonus, tuition assistance, and limitations on outsourcing. This new era stressed cooperation, job security, and the sharing of wealth.

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Universalium. 2010.

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