U.S. News

TIMELINE: History of the UAW and U.S. automakers

(Reuters) - The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has represented workers in the U.S. industry for more than 70 years.

But the UAW has seen its membership decline and has been called on to broker fresh wage and benefits concessions for its members as part of the Big Three’s efforts to survive the U.S. recession.

Following is a chronology of the UAW’s history and the text of the union’s first -- one-page -- contract with an automaker, General Motors Corp:

1935: The American Federation of Labor charters the UAW in Detroit.

1936: Workers at some GM plants in Flint, Michigan, go on strike in December.

1937: After violent clashes in January, the governor of Michigan calls out the National Guard and orders both sides to negotiate. Workers target the Chevrolet No. 4 plant in Flint, seen as GM’s most important plant, for a strike.

1937: The strike at Chevrolet No. 4 results on Feb 11 in the first ever contract between the UAW and GM.

1937: Workers at Chrysler -- today controlled by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP -- win a sit-down strike for union recognition.

1941: In April, workers strike against Ford Motor Co, the last of the Big Three without union representation, and the first contract between the two is signed in June.

1947: UAW negotiates first paid holidays for GM workers.

1949: Union negotiates first employer-paid and jointly administered pension program at Ford.

1964: UAW negotiates fully paid hospitalization, surgical and medical insurance for retirees.

1979: Membership in the union peaked at close to 1.5 million, and begins steady decline.

2007: Union makes landmark givebacks on wages and health benefits in 2007 contract talks with Detroit’s Big Three.

2008: Membership falls below 500,000 for the first time since 1941.


The Corporation hereby recognizes the Union as the Collective Bargaining agency for those employees of the Corporation who are members of the Union. The Corporation recognizes and will not interfere with the right of its employees to be members of the union. There shall be no discrimination, interference, restraint or coercion by the Corporation or any of its agents against any employee because of membership in the Union.

The Corporation and the Union agree to commence collective bargaining negotiations on Feb 16 with regard to the issue specified in the letter of Jan 4 1937 from the Union to the Corporation, for the purpose of entering into a collective bargaining agreement, or agreements, covering such issues, looking to a final and complete settlement of all matters in dispute.

The Union agrees to forthwith terminate the present strike against the Corporation, and to evacuate all plants now occupied by the strikers.

The Corporation agrees that all of its plants, which are on strike, or otherwise idle shall resume operations as rapidly as possible.

It is understood that all employees now on strike or otherwise idle will return to their usual work when called and that no discrimination shall be made or prejudices exercised by the corporation against any employee because of his former affiliation with, or activities in, the Union or the present strike.

The Union agrees that pending the negotiations referred to in Paragraph Two, there shall be no strikes called or any other interruption to or interference with production by the Union or its members.

During the existence of the collective bargaining agreement contemplated pursuant to Paragraph Two, all opportunities to achieve a satisfactory settlement of any grievance or enforcement of any demands by negotiations shall be exhausted before there shall be any strikes or other interruption to or interference with production by the Union or its members. There shall be no attempts to intimidate or coerce any employees by the union and there shall not be any solicitation or signing up of members by the Union on the premises of the Company. This is not to preclude individual discussion.

After the evacuation of its plants and the termination of the strike the corporation agrees to consent to the entry of orders, dismissing the injunction proceedings which have been started by the Corporation against the Union, or any of its members, or officers or any of its locals, including those pending in Flint, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio, and subject to the approval of the Court to discontinue all contempt proceedings which it has instituted thereunder.