March 28, 2013 / 11:25 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-UAW says membership rose slightly in 2012

DETROIT, March 28 (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers union said on Thursday it added members for the third straight year in 2012, as it organized workers from casinos as well as auto parts companies in Alabama and Kentucky, the union said on Thursday.

The slight gain of 0.5 percent to 382,513 UAW members was achieved even as the union has not been able to organize any of the large auto assembly plants owned by foreign companies in the U.S. South.

Union membership in the United States has been on a long-term decline since the 1970s. The UAW has shown the same pattern after its numbers peaked in 1979 at about 1.5 million members.

Its membership sunk to 355,191 in 2009.

Fewer auto plants and automation at remaining plants has gone a long way toward cutting the UAW’s membership.

The union is active in trying to organize workers at two Tennessee auto plants and one in Mississippi.

The UAW presented its annual membership data to the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday.

“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.

King, who is a former chief organizer for the UAW, said that 2011’s four-year contracts with the three major U.S. automakers led to commitments for investment by the companies that have led to job growth, and will do so through 2015.

The annual membership report by the UAW came on the day that the “right-to-work” law became effective in Michigan. Michigan became the 24th state that bans the mandatory collection of dues from represented workers.

Contracts with the three major U.S. automakers, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group LLC do not expire until the second half of 2015. The new law, passed during a lame duck session of the Michigan legislature in December, does not affect workers covered by contracts in effect before Thursday.

The UAW membership numbers reported to the Labor Department do not reflect workers who agreed to join the UAW last year that by the end of the 2012 had not completed negotiations on their first contracts, the union said.

If these workers were to be included, the membership count would be more than 400,000, the UAW said.

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