UAW History


  • 200 delegates from auto plants all over the United States meet in Detroit for the founding convention of the United Automobile Workers of America.


  • UAW launches historic Flint, Michigan, sit-down strike at GM Dec. 30. Strike ends Feb. 11, 1937, after GM agrees to negotiate with union.
  • Chrysler workers stage sit-downs at all nine Detroit plants to win UAW recognition.


  • After striking Ford for 10 days, UAW wins union shop, dues checkoff and grievance procedure in the first contract.
  • UAW International Executive Board adopts a no strike pledge after war breaks out between the United States and Japan.


  • UAW Vice President Walter Reuther proposes converting auto plants to arsenals for democracy to build 500 planes a day.


  • First UAW Women’s Conference – UAW is the first union to hold one – calls for full employment and equal pay for women.
  • First conference of UAW veterans establishes Veterans Bureau and formulates program for returning Gls.


  • Walter Reuther elected fourth UAW president.
  • UAW establishes Agricultural Implement Department.


  • UAW wins first Annual Improvement Factor raise at GM, recognizing workers’ contributions to regular productivity increases, and first union contract containing an escalator clause tied to the cost-of-living index.


  • First employer-paid and jointly administered pension program won at Ford Motor Co.


  • UAW wins Supplemental Unemployment Benefits at Ford – a first in the industry – as part of an effort to win a guaranteed annual wage for workers.


  • At GM, union wins first fully paid hospitalization and sick benefits, and agreement for no discrimination on basis of race, creed, color or national origin.


  • UAW is major supporter of the March on Washington, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. UAW lobbies for civil rights law.


  • Fully paid hospitalization, surgical and medical insurance won for Big Three retirees.


  • Leonard Woodcock becomes fifth UAW president.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act passed; Workers Memorial Day later established to remember those who died on the job.


  • 30-and-out at any age negotiated for Big Three workers.


  • Douglas A. Fraser elected sixth UAW president.


  • UAW wins profit sharing, Guaranteed Income Stream, moratorium on plant closings and company-funded training programs at GM and Ford.


  • Owen Bieber elected seventh UAW president.


  • More than 22,000 State of Michigan employees join UAW.


  • Nelson Mandela receives UAW membership card while visiting members at Dearborn’s Ford Rouge complex following release from prison in South Africa.


  • Stephen P. Yokich elected eighth UAW president.


  • UAW wins Election Day as paid holiday for Detroit Three workers.


  • Ron Gettelfinger elected ninth UAW president.
  • Strikes at four Johnson Controls facilities win first contracts, union recognition and neutrality agreement covering 26 plants and 8,000 workers.


  • Workers at Thomas Built Buses in North Carolina vote for UAW representation, defeating a Right-To-Work challenge and bringing a total of UAW represented workers in the Freightliner system to 8,000.


  • More than 6,367 casino dealers and slot technicians in Atlantic City, N.J., Evansville, Ind., and Norwich, Conn., vote to join UAW.
  • Union bargaining at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler achieves unprecedented product guarantees for active UAW members and secure health care benefits for UAW retired members.


  • To prevent collapse of auto industry, GM and Chrysler are granted federally guaranteed loans to allow them to survive.


  • UAW Ford workers ratify contract modifications to 2007 labor agreement and funding changes to VEBA trust for retiree health care.
  • UAW Chrysler members ratify settlement agreement; short-term bankruptcy protection announced to help automaker survive.


  • Bob King elected 10th UAW president.


  • Amid the amazing turnaround following the historic auto industry crisis, the UAW wins commitments from the three domestic automakers to create more than 20,000 new direct jobs to the economy


  • The UAW and its members play a critical role at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and in getting President Obama re-elected, with UAW members taking center stage and President Bob King giving remarks to delegates.


  • Dennis Williams elected at the UAW’s 11th president. Immediate steps are taken to trim expenses and place the union on a path to a balanced budget.
  • Local unions are established for workers at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Mercedes workers in Vance, Alabama.


  • Members of Local 3555 in Las Vegas become the first UAW members to win a contract on “The Strip” in Las Vegas. Gaming members for that local soon expand the UAW’s footprint in Las Vegas by helping dealers at The LINQ casino organize.