The United Auto Workers membership rose 1.1 percent to 380,719 at the end of last year, the union’s second consecutive annual gain, as U.S. automakers added employees amid rising sales.
The UAW added 4,107 members from 376,612 in 2010, according to a filing yesterday with the U.S. Labor Department.
General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC gained sales and boosted their share of the U.S. market last year. While the UAW’s 2011 gain followed a 6 percent increase in 2010, the UAW’s total membership is still only about one-fourth its size in 1979, when it peaked at 1.5 million members.
“In order to gain any kind of strength at the bargaining table, they’re going to have to be a bigger union,” said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Organizing new workers is critical to the UAW’s future. That’s their challenge and that’s what they’ve got to do. It won’t be easy.”
The UAW, based in Detroit, wants to rebuild membership after failing to organize U.S. factories of Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. UAW President Bob King pledged to expand the union’s bargaining power by organizing a U.S. plant owned by an Asian or European automakers in 2011. King failed to meet that deadline.
The union president said last year the UAW was in discussions with automakers he didn’t identify. The UAW this month started passing out authorization cards at Volkswagen AG’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Reuters reported last week, citing factory workers it didn’t identify.
GM, Ford and Chrysler will hire 14,750 workers represented by the UAW by 2015, according to the Center for Automotive Research. The three automakers employed 110,150 UAW-represented workers last year, down almost two-thirds from about 300,000 in 2001, according to the center. By 2015, the U.S. automakers will employ 120,400 UAW workers, the center estimates.
“How the UAW sustains its organization and their membership will depend on how they grow,” Dziczek said. “There’s going to have to be growth through organizing.”
Detroit-based GM’s U.S. light-vehicle sales last year increased 13 percent while Ford’s, based in Dearborn, Michigan, gained 11 percent and Chrysler’s rose 26 percent. The increases for GM and Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler came two years after they reorganized in U.S.-backed bankruptcies.
The UAW reported total assets of $1.04 billion at the end of 2011, down from $1.08 billion a year earlier. The union said it had total liabilities of $7.14 million at the end of last year, up from $4.59 million a year earlier.