Post number 16, UAW 933, Union History From the Net and Class Notes

Robert Boone, UAW 933, May 2015

Union History From the Net and Class Notes

1970 UAW convention

1970 Atlantic City UAW Convention, Glenn Flanary and Robert Boone talking across the table.

Presidents of the AFL and organization formed to primarily organize trade type workers
Samuel Gompers was the first President!
George Meany (1955-1979)
Lane Kirkland (1979-1995)
Thomas R. Donahue (1995)
John J. Sweeney (1995-2009)
Richard Trumka (2009- )

Departments within the AFL
Building and Construction Trades Department
Maritime Trades
Metal Trades
Professional Employees
Transportation Trades
Union Label

Affiliated unions

The first permanent union organized in the United States in 1792 was the shoemakers. The American Federation of Labor was founded in 1881.

The knights of labor were the first union of vehicle makers.
The committee for industrial organization formed under the AFL to organize non-skilled industrial workers.
The Wagner Act of 1935 strengthens the rights of workers to organize and created the NLRB.
The first charter issued to the UAW was in 1935.
The first President of the UAW was Francis Dillon, not elected, but appointed by the AFL.
The 1935 – 37 Flint sit-down strikes accomplished primarily the recognition of the UAW.
In 1937 the first Agricultural Implement agreement was reached at J.I. Case.
North American Aviation was the first air craft workers organized by the UAW.

The UAW’s pledge to the World War II effort was “not to strike during the duration of the war”. One of the most devices ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE UAW, until the Magic dater issue came into being.

The Landrum Act of 1959 was intended to 1. Limit the powers of unions. 2. Make unions more responsible to its members. 3. Establish government reporting procedures for unions.

Federal employees have a right to collectively bargain because of an executive order signed by John F. Kennedy, not by legislation.

Strikers in the U.S. are more likely to lose their jobs than in any other country.
The UAW was expelled from the AFL in 1938 and became a charter member of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) that same year.

United Automobile Workers (UAW), is an American labor union that represents workers in the United States and Puerto Rico, and in the country of Canada. Founded as part of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s, the UAW grew rapidly from 1936 to the 1950s. Under the leadership of Walter Reuther (president 1946-70) it played a major role in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, including the civil rights and anti-Communist movements.

The UAW was especially known for gaining high wages and pensions for the auto workers, but it was unable to unionize auto plants built by foreign-based car-makers in the South after the 1970s, and went into a steady decline in membership — increased automation, decreased use of labor, movements of manufacturing (including reaction to NAFTA), and increased Globalization all were factors.

UAW members in the 21st century work in industries as diverse as autos and auto parts, health care, casino gambling and higher education. Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, the union has about 390,000 active members and more than 600,000 retired (US old codgers do outnumber the active work force) members in 750 local unions, which negotiated 2,500 contracts with some 1,700 employers.

World War II dramatically changed the nature of the UAW’s organizing. The UAW’s Executive Board voted to make a “no strike” pledge to ensure that the war effort would not be hindered by strikes (although vehemently opposed by some UAW executives, such as Tom Di Lorenzo: “Our policy is not to win the war at any cost…”), and that pledge was later reaffirmed by the membership. Almost as destructive as the current Magic Daters and the Old Codgers systems within our work places.

The UAW struck GM for 113 days, beginning in November 1945, demanding a greater voice in management. GM would pay higher wages but refused to consider power sharing; the union finally settled with an eighteen-and-a-half-cent wage increase but little more. (The story goes that in the beginning the offer was 18 cents). The UAW went along with GM in return for an ever-increasing packages of wage and benefit hikes through collective bargaining, with no help from the government.


Walter Reuther won the election for president at the UAW’s constitutional convention in 1946 and served until his death in an airplane accident in May 1970. Reuther led the union during one of the most prosperous periods for workers in U.S. history. The UAW delivered contracts for his membership through brilliant negotiating tactics. Reuther would pick one of the “Big three” automakers, and if it did not offer concessions, he would strike it and let the other two absorb its sales. Besides high hourly wage rates and paid vacations, in 1950 Reuther negotiated an industry first contract with General Motors known as the Treaty of Detroit (Fortune magazine) becoming known as Reuther’s Treaty of Detroit. The UAW negotiated employer-funded pensions at Chrysler, medical insurance at GM, and in 1955 (first) supplementary unemployment benefits at Ford. Many smaller suppliers followed suit with benefits.

Reuther tried to negotiate lower automobile prices for the consumer with each contract, with limited success. An agreement on profit sharing with American Motors led nowhere, because profits were small at this minor player. The UAW expanded its scope to include workers in other major industries such as the aerospace and agricultural-implement industries.

The UAW disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO on July 1, 1968, after Reuther and AFL-CIO President George Meany could not come to agreement on a wide range of policy issues or reforms to AFL-CIO governance. On July 24, 1968, just days after the UAW disaffiliation, Teamsters General President Frank Fitzsimmons and Reuther formed the Alliance for Labor Action as a new national trade union center to organize unorganized workers and pursue leftist political and social projects. Meany denounced the ALA as a dual union, although Reuther argued it was not. The Alliance’s initial program was ambitious. Reuther’s death in a plane crash on May 9, 1970, near Black Lake, Michigan, dealt a serious blow to the Alliance, and the group halted operations in July 1971 after the Auto Workers almost bankrupt from a lengthy strike of 9 weeks to lift the cap from COLA and establish 30 and out at General Motors) and was almost unable to continue to fund its operations. (Local 933 was not permitted to strike, because of the requirement to supply the government with war material. Because of a mistake in judgment, Good old Allison’s laid off 2,250 of us out of line of seniority.)

The UAW founded WDET 101.9 fm in Detroit, MI in 1948. The station was later sold to Wayne State University for $1 in 1952.

Beginning in the early 1970s, changes in the global economy. The arrival of Volkswagen, Honda and other imports threatened the industry area. When the German and Japanese companies opened plants in the USA, they headed to the South and operated without unions.1970 GM enjoyed 60% of US auto sales, probable could not give away that % of production today.

The situation for the automotive industry and UAW members heightened with the 1973 oil embargo. Rising fuel prices caused the U.S. auto makers to lose market share to foreign manufacturers who placed more emphasis on fuel efficiency. This started years of layoffs and wage reductions.

The UAW has seen a loss of membership since the 1970s. Membership topped 1.5 million in 1979, falling to 540,000 in 2006. With the late-2000s recession, GM and Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 reorganization.

Membership fell to 390,000 active members in 2010, with more than 600,000 retired members covered by pension and medical care plans.

UAW has been credited for aiding in the auto industry rebound in the 21st century and blamed for seeking benefit packages in the past which in part led to the automotive industry crisis of 2008-2009. Second-tier wage of $14.50 (SWAG Method) an hour, which applies to magic daters, is lower than the average wage in non-union auto companies in the Deep South.

One of the benefits negotiated by the United Auto Workers was the former jobs bank program, under which laid-off members once received 95 percent of their take-home pay and benefits. More than 12,000 UAW members were paid this benefit in 2005. In December 2008, the UAW agreed to suspend the program as a concession to help U.S. automakers during the auto industry crisis.

Beginning in 1982 UAW Leadership granted concessions to its unions in order to win labor peace, a benefit not calculated by the UAW’s many critics. The UAW has tried to expand membership by organizing the employees outside of the Big Three. In 2010, the then current President Bob King hired Richard Bensinger to organize Japanese, Korean, and German transplant factories in the United States. “I know of no one that brags of our unions success in that endeavor”.

In February, 2014 workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant voted down the union 712 to 626. However, the UAW organized a “community union” Local 42, which was voluntary and does not collect dues. Despite the vote against the UAW, Volkswagen announced a new policy allowing groups representing at least 15% of the workforce to participate in meetings, with higher access tiers for groups representing 30% and 45% of employees. This prompted anti-UAW workers who opposed the first vote to form a rival union, the American Council of Employees.

In the 1990s, the UAW began to focus on new areas of organizing both geographically (in places like Puerto Rico) and in terms of occupations, with new initiatives among university staff, freelance writers, and employees of non-profit organizations, including workers at Mother Jones Magazine and the Sierra Club who are represented by UAW Local 2103.

The UAW took on the organization of academic student employees (ASEs) working at American universities as teaching assistants, research assistants, tutors, and graders under the slogan “Uniting Academic Workers”. As of 2011, the UAW represents more student workers than any other union in the United States of America. Universities with UAW ASE representation include the University of California (UAW Local 2865), California State University (UAW Local 4123), University of Massachusetts Amherst (UAW Local 2322), University of Washington (UAW Local 4121), and New York University (UAW Local 2110).

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.

Presidents of the UAW
• 1935-1936: Frances Dillon! Never elected, appointed by AFL
• 1936–1938: Homer Martin
• 1938–1946: R. J. Thomas
• 1946-1970: Walter Reuther
• 1970–1977: Leonard F. Woodcock
• 1977–1983: Douglas Fraser
• 1983–1995: Owen Bieber
• 1995-2002: Stephen Yokich
• 2002-2010: Ron Gettelfinger
• 2010-2014: Bob King
• 2014-Present: Dennis Williams

Dad always said, without the vision to understand where you have been, you likely won’t get to where you need to go.

Hope this history give the working folks a bit of insight as to where we came from.