UAW membership rose 1.3% in 2015

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

The United Auto Workers added roughly 5,000 members in 2015 as the Detroit-based union grew 1.3 percent over the prior year, according to a Thursday filing with the Department of Labor.


The union said in the filing that it has 408,639 members, up from the 403,466 it had in 2014. That marks the sixth straight year the union has grown its ranks after hitting a low in 2009.

The UAW reached an all-time high of 1.53 million members in 1979, and had more than 701,000 members in 2002.

The Department of Labor filing showed the UAW spent $709,177 on political activities and lobbying, and $507,050 on contributions, gifts and grants. It says the union has $238,201 in net assets.

A union spokesman was not available for comment.

The union is trying to grow its ranks and gain a foothold in non-union plants in the South. Locally, the UAW has yet to feel the full effects of Michigan’s right-to-work legislation, which lets members opt-out and stop paying union dues. The rank-and-file had the opportunity to do that when the new contract went into effect late last year, but union leadership has said they don’t expect it to have much of an effect.

“I’ve always believed that if you do your job representing people, that people will be there to support you,” UAW President Dennis Williams previously told The Detroit News.

He said that in other right-to-work states, the union has been successful in retaining the vast majority of its members.

Last fall, the UAW negotiated new contracts with Detroit’s three automakers that included lucrative signing bonuses, raises for its roughly 150,000 workers and a path to top wages for new hires. The deals helped preserve health care benefits for members, although the concept of a pool that would group all three automakers together to reduce costs was soundly rejected by workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and dropped.

The union last year also negotiated contracts with a number of other organizations, including John Deere and the state of Michigan.

The sometimes-contentious talks didn’t result in any strikes, but revealed a discord on social media between rank-and-file and the union leadership.