70 Years of Solidarity  







Our Local was actually chartered on, June 13th, 1941.  It wasn't until October 26th, 1942 that it was certified by the National Labor Relations Board to be the exclusive bargaining representatives of John Deere Harvester Works.  This certification not only gave UAW Local 865 the right to bargain on the behalf of the employees at Harvester Works,  It also obligated the company to bargain in good faith with the Local's leadership.

The obligation on the company's part was due to a 1935 law often referred to as "The Wagner Act".  The Wagner Act gave unions the right to organize workers without management trying to intimidate them into rejecting union representation.

The Wagner Act also created the National Labor Relations Board.  The NLRB had the responsibility of making sure elections were fair when it came time for employees to vote for which union, if any, would represent them.

The Quad City area labor movement of the 1940's was not a pleasant time.  We could have easily ended up being represented by a union other than the UAW

The UAW hasn't always bargained for each Deere factory in the chain.  There were numerous agricultural industries throughout the Midwest and multiple factions of Organized Labor competing to represent them.  One of the strongest in the early 1940's was the, Farm Equipment Workers (FE). 

The FE represented a large majority of agricultural implement workers in the Midwest, including  International Harvester, Caterpillar in Peoria,  and some of the Deere factories.  At the time, International Harvester was the largest maker of Ag Imp machinery  in the country.  The FE Union was firmly entrenched at the IH factories in Chicago and East Moline.

The UAW represented very little in the Ag sector of manufacturing.  It bargained for some of the International Harvester workers at their truck plants in Indiana and Ohio.  It also represented some of the workers at Allis-Chalmers, J.I. Case, Oliver, and Massey-Harris.  At the time, the UAW represented five Deere plants, John Deere Harvester Works, Spreader Works, The Foundry, Waterloo, and Ottumwa.

There was some bad blood between the leaders of the UAW and the Leaders of the FE, but for the most part, little conflict.  The FE was run by the CPUSA (Communist Party United States of America). There were a couple of different factions vying to lead the UAW.  The strongest of those being the supporters of Walter Reuther.

In the Mid 1940's, the UAW began to step up their efforts to organize Ag Imp workers.  It soon formed the UAW Ag Imp Department.  This did not sit well with the FE and the war between the UAW and FE began. 

Our brothers and sisters from the John Deere Dubuque Works voted out the FE and elected UAW representation in their 1948 NLRB election.  John Deere Des Moines Works opened in 1948 and elected UAW representation over FE.  At this point, all of the John Deere factories, with the exception of the FE represented John Deere Planter Works in Moline, were solidly UAW.

The organizing war between the two unions continued for years with the UAW slowly gaining former FE members.  International Harvester in East Moline joined the UAW in the early 1950's.  The UAW beat the FE for the right to bargain for the 20,000+ Caterpillar unit in Peoria around that time, a major blow to the FE.  It wasn't until 1954 that the John Deere Planter and Plow Works in Moline voted out the weakened FE Union and chose UAW. 

At this point, the UAW represented a vast majority of the AG Imp workers in the Midwest.  Its membership depleted from the war with the UAW, and the growing anti-communist sentiment sweeping the nation, the FE was to become a memory in labor history.

The UAW and Deere had begun to negotiate their first contracts in 1943, but at that point in time Deere had yet to truly accept organized labor.  Strikes and walkouts were daily events as the UAW and Deere struggled to work together.  In 1945 Deere began to negotiate with the UAW in earnest and labor agreements as we know them began to take shape.

Here is a look at every UAW/Deere agreement that Local 865 was involved in.  The UAW and Deere negotiated separate agreements for each factory up until 1967.  So keep in mind, the agreements below are for Harvester only until we reach 1967. 


1946 Agreement

            -The 1946 agreement's Vacation Plan, an employee with 1 year of service was entitled to 1 week of paid vacation.  If an employee had 5 years or more of service, he would be entitled to 2 weeks of paid vacation.  2 weeks was the maximum amount of vacation that you could attain. The company could also assign the week/weeks you would take your vacation at any time from May 15th - October 31st.  There was no notice that needed to be given.  There was no vacation shutdown.  It was at their discretion as to which week you would be taking vacation, and if they didn't tell you until the week before, there was nothing stopping them.
            -The starting rate for a Male production employee in 1946 was 50 cents per hour.  For a Female production employee it was 40 cents per hour.   Here are some of the pay rates for various hourly classifications
Blacksmith - $1.09 per hour
Electrician - $1.23 per hour
Hourly Welder - $1.06 per hour
Inspector - $0.84 per hour
            -There was a 6 month probationary period. 
            -Shift Premium Pay was 5 cents per hour, either shift.
            -There was no such thing as medical, dental, or life insurance.  No Weekly Indemnity if you were injured or became ill.
            -There were 6 paid holidays.  New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.  If you worked on any of the holidays, those hours would pay at time and one-half.
            -There were only 70 pages front to back in the 1946 agreement. 12 of those pages were lists of the various classifications.


1947 Agreement

            -The biggest gain in the 1947 labor agreement was the introduction of a health insurance plan. 
            -There were also improvements in the way that an employee's vacation rate was calculated.  As well as an employee qualifying for a week of vacation after 6 months instead of 1 year. 
            -Working one of the 6 holidays now paid employees at double time instead of time and one-half.
            -Along with a general wage increase of 10%, shift premium increased to 7 cents per hour for 2nd shift and 10 cents per hour for 3rd shift.
            -This agreement also changed the way that the arbitration of grievances worked.  Prior to this, each arbitration would be handled by any arbitrator available.  This agreement set a permanent arbitrator that would hear and rule on all grievance that went to arbitration.  This permanent arbitrator needed to be approved by both the company and the union.


1950 Agreement

            The 1950 labor agreement was ratified on December 18th of that year.  This ratification came after a strike that lasted over 100 days.  The strike apparently served its purpose as the 1950 labor agreement included large gains for the Local 865 membership.
            -A very detailed pension plan was negotiated.  Employees could retire at age 65.  They could also elect to take early retirement at age 60 for a reduced rate.  This pension plan also introduced language on  Service Credits.  Upon retirement at age 65, an employee would receive a monthly benefit of one and one-half percent of the average annual earnings of the previous 10 year period.   There was also the establishment of surviving spouse benefit.   An employee was eligible for full retirement at age 65. 
            -An employee would be forced to retire at age 68 unless they made and granted a formal request to continue employment. 
            -The company could force an employee to retire between the ages of 65 and 68 if they deemed that you were unable to perform your job. 
            -Along with the pension plan, the 1950 negotiations established group life insurance.  An employee with 2 or more years of service credit would be eligible for a benefit of 1 year of annual earnings, with a $10,000 maximum benefit.
            -The gains in health insurance were equally impressive.  Employees paid $2.09 per month and the company also paid $2.09 per month for the premium.  An employee with dependents could elect to pay $4.57 per month to cover them under the insurance plan. 
            -This insurance plan also covered retired employees.  For a monthly cost of $1.44 a retired employee would maintain their health insurance.  If the employee elected to extend the health insurance to a dependent, it would cost them $4.38 per month.
            -This labor agreement also introduced non-occupational injury or sickness pay (Known today as W.I.).  If an employee became sick or injured outside of work, they would receive a weekly payment of $30.00.  He would be eligible for this payment up to 26 weeks per calendar year.
            -This agreement was a 5 year agreement and employees received a general wage increase of 3% each year.
            -The 1950 agreement also introduced the Cost of Living benefit.  Employees would receive a quarterly increase if the Government's Consumer Price Index indicated that the cost of living increased.
            -Employees received 3 weeks of vacation time when they reached 15 years or more of continuous employment.
            -The probationary period for new hires went from 6 months to 3 months. 
            -The language in regards to  job bidding was more clearly defined.
            Keep in mind that these gains did not come without cost.  Many members of 865 suffered during the strike bringing about these improvements.


1955 Agreement

            -Gains were made in the pension plan, the health insurance plan and Weekly indemnity.
            -Employees would now receive 7 paid holidays with the addition of Christmas Eve Day.
            -Employees would receive a general wage increase of 3% each year of the agreement.  COLA also remained.
            -The previous incentive pay system was replaced with the Standard Hour Incentive Plan.  The Standard Hour Plan introduced incentive standards that took into account Personal Fatigue Time, Job Delay, and Inherent Delay.  It also explained exactly how incentive standards should be calculated and provided that all incentive standards be available for review by employees.
            -With the introduction of the new Standard Hour Plan came the first language on Average Earnings.  It was calculated on the previous two weeks performance.  The 1955 agreement provided for an incentive worker to claim AE in many of the situations that he would be unable to produce his parts.
            -The language on holiday qualifying days also improved.


1958 Agreement

            -The 1958 agreement gave an employee with 25 years of continuous employment 4 weeks of vacation.
            -It also rolled the previous contract's yearly 3% wage increases into the new base rate for each classification.  Each year of the 1958 agreement also had a 3% general wage increase.
            -There were improvements made in both insurance and pension plans.


1961 Agreement

            -The 1961 agreement saw improvements in the way that an employee's vacation pay rate was calculated.
            - This agreement also saw language on paid time off when called to serve Jury Duty.  This pay was calculated at the employees AE rate minus whatever pay they received from serving on the Jury.
            -All employees received a 2.5% general wage increase each year of this agreement.  This was the first agreement that did not carry a full 3% yearly increase.
            -Shift premium pay is now 13.1 cents per hour for 2nd shift and 18.7 cent per hour for 3rd shift.
            -As of this labor agreement, the base rate for a F-2 Arc Welder was $2.51 per hour. 


1964 Agreement

            The 1964 agreement provided for many gains for the 865 membership. 
            -It was in this Agreement that employees would be paid 3 days of  Bereavement pay for a death in the immediate family.
            -Another gain from this agreement was that all employees with 1 or more years of continuous employment would receive 5 Casual Days per year on top of their normal vacation.  The Casual Days paid at Average Earnings and could be taken in 4 hour increments.
            -This agreement also brought about the Tuition Refund Program.  If qualified for the program, the company would give the employee 1/3 of the tuition and lab costs.  Another 1/3 would be paid upon completion of the course.  In order to be approved for this program, the course needed to be work related and recommended by the employee's supervisor, department head, and the administer of the tuition plan.
            -Vacation pay calculation was improved.  There was also the addition of an extra 1/2 week of vacation for employees with more than 10 years of service  but less than 15.  Employees with 3 years of service but less than 5 also received an additional 1/2 week.
            -Prior to this agreement the only language on distribution of overtime was "as equally as possible" This agreement required that the supervisor maintain an overtime record, and that it could not exceed a 16 hour spread between the low and high employees.  This record was to be made available for review by any employee.
            -There  were 2 additional holidays negotiated this agreement as well.  These two days were the Friday after Thanksgiving, and New Years Eve.
            -Improvements in the benefits plan as well as wages were also made.
            The 1964 Agreement would be the last one that Local 865 negotiated solely for its members.  Beginning in 1967 there would be a Master Agreement negotiated to cover all of the UAW employees in the Deere chain.
            Local 865 had come a long ways from the labor strife of their first negotiation in 1943.  The gains that were made along the way did not come without cost.  Countless Strikes, Lockouts, Disputes, and Grievances that our membership had suffered went hand in hand with the improvements that had been won. 


1967 Agreement

            The 1967 Agreement was negotiated by a Bargaining Committee made up of leadership from each Local Union.  Our Local President at the time was Dick Shoemaker.  Mr. Shoemaker was later appointed by UAW President, Walter Reuther, to a job with the International Staff.  He served as the assistant director of Region 4.  Mr. Shoemaker then served as the administrative assistant to Vice President Steve Yokich and later, President Owen Bieber.  In 1995 Mr. Shoemaker was elected a Vice President of the International UAW.  He was the Director of the Agricultural Implement Department as well as the Director of the General Motors Department.  In 2002, our Local Union Hall was Dedicated to him.
            The 1967 negotiations were soon at an impasse and the UAW went on what would turn out to be a 6 week strike.
            -The 1967 agreement had what was an Inverse Seniority Plan.  Employees with 10 or more years of service could elect to take an optional layoff instead of laying off a junior employee.  They would draw Unemployment and their SUB benefit while on layoff.
            -This agreement also addressed the issue of subcontracting.  Before the company could bring in subcontractors, the affected bargaining unit employees, that would normally perform that work, must be working at least 48 hours per week. 
            -The previous requirement of 25 years of continuous employment to be entitled to 4 weeks of vacation was lowered to 20 years.  Another gain  in the vacation language was that an additional $100 vacation bonus would be paid with their normal vacation pay.
            -The 1967 Agreement also brought with it, a paid Christmas Shutdown of 3 days.  This Christmas Shutdown would be scheduled each year.
            -The Chairman of the Shop Committee would now be able to serve in that role full time.
            -Employees would now be entitled to an Income Security Benefit  if they were reduced to a lower paying classification.
            -There were gains in the pension plan, W.I., and Long Term Disability.  There was also  a 3% wage increase each year of the agreement.
            -Because this was the first agreement that covered all of the UAW Locals, there was language added for the first time regarding Past Practice between management and the Local Unions of each factory.


1971 Agreement

            -In 1971 we  saw the introduction of the Labor Market Area Seniority list.  This program allowed employees laid off from one plant to be called to work at one of the other plants in the area.
            -We saw the S.U.B. fund increase, as well as an improvement in the quarterly Cost of Living Adjustment.
            -There were general wage increases each year of the agreement and the pay for Christmas Shutdown was increased as well.
            -There were gains made in all medical, surgical, hospital, and drug programs.  There was also improvements made regarding the Tuition Aid Program.
            -For the first time, the entire Shop Committee would be available to perform their elected duties on a full time basis.


1973 Agreement

            -In 1973 the Earned Bonus Hour program was brought into the labor agreement.  Each week that an employee worked their regularly scheduled hours, they would receive  1/2 of an Earned Bonus Hour.  Once an employee accrued 8 Earned Bonus Hours they could elect to take a paid day off.
            -Shift Premium pay is now 24.5 cents per hour for 2nd shift and 35 cents per hour for 3rd shift.
            -There were improvements made in the Pension Plan, as well as improvements made with Medical and Life Insurance.
            -This agreement also introduced a comprehensive Dental Plan.
            -Language regarding 24 hours notice of an overtime assignment as well as language stating that if a Saturday was to be considered scheduled, employees were to be made aware by Wednesday of that week. 
            -The COLA gains over the previous agreement would be rolled into the base rate of each Labor Grade on the first year of the agreement.  The following years there would be a 3% General Wage Increase.


1976 Agreement

            -The 1976 negotiations ended up in a 6 week strike before any agreement could be reached.
            -Vision Insurance Plan was introduced.
            -The Earned Bonus Hour Program improved from 1/2 of an Earned Bonus Hour per week to 1 Earned Bonus Hour per week
            -A more structured system for the company to follow regarding subcontracting.
            -COLA gains were rolled into the base of each Labor Grade on the first year of the labor agreement.  The following years would include a 3% general wage increase.
            -Gains were made in the Medical and Dental plans.  W.I. also saw improvements.  There were also gains included for past retirees.
            -The Company and the Union discussed details on how they could implement a joint rehabilitation program to assist an employee in need.


1979 Agreement

            -There would be a 3 week strike before an agreement was reached in 1979.
            -The Earned Bonus Hour Program increased from 1 hour per week to 2 hours per week.
            -Employees now received 6 EPA days per year instead of 5.
            -There was a new hearing aid program introduced to go along with improvements in the pension, dental ,and vision plans.
            -COLA Gains rolled into base rate the first year of the agreement.  3% General Wage Increase the following years.


The 1980's

            The 1980s brought with it the worst recession since the end of WWII.  John Deere Dealerships were filled with unsold machinery and the plants were only running around 50% of capacity.  Between 1980 and 1983, Deere had laid off nearly 40% of its total workforce.  Interest rates, inflation, and unemployment skyrocketed.  With the farm equipment sales continuing to decline, and thousands of our brothers and sisters out on layoff, 1983 bargaining would be a huge challenge.



1983 Agreement

            -COLA from the previous agreement was rolled into the base rate.
            -Introduction of the Profit Sharing Plan
            -Retirement bonus and higher earnings limit for retirees.
            -Protection for workers against plant closing.


1987 Agreement

            The prior agreement ended in June of 1986.  It was extended numerous times in an attempt to reach in agreement.  This agreement would cover nearly 14,000 active employees and nearly 8,000 UAW members that were laid off.  After almost 3 months of extensions, UAW workers at Waterloo, Dubuque, and Milan went on Strike.  The company quickly locked the rest of the UAW out of the remaining plants.  The strike lasted 163 days.
            -A job security program was implemented to cut back on layoffs, but also allow for some flexibility when assigning the extra employees to work.  This program was called the Protected Employee Group (Peg Pool)
            -There was a pension increase for future and past retirees.
            -There was no General Wage Increase this agreement, but COLA remained the same.
            -An agreement that the company would offer new job training to active employees as well as those on layoff.
            -A Voluntary Tax Deferral Savings program was created.
Base wages for incentive workers ranged from $11.03 to $12.99 per hour
Hourly Employees ranged from $12.09 to $16.21 per hour


1988 Agreement

            The farm economy was beginning to pick back up in 1988.
            -44 cents per hour was the general wage increase the first year of the agreement.  The 2nd and 3rd year of the agreement, employees would receive  a 3% lump sum payout.
            -The 1988 agreement also introduced a new Legal Service Plan for employees to use.
            -There were many improvements made to the Job Security language that was negotiated in the prior agreement.
            -Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Day was included as a paid holiday
            -An Excess Overtime Account was created that the company would have to fund when employees were worked overtime that exceeded 5% of straight time hours.
            -There were improvements made in the pension plan as well as the health, dental, and vision plan.
            -This agreement also had a Moratorium against plant closings.


1991 Agreement

            -The 1991 Agreement strengthened Job Security even more by only allowing employees to be on layoff for a maximum of 8 weeks per year.
            -There was a 3% General Wage Increase the first year of the agreement and 3% lump sum payments the following 2 years.
            -The 1991 agreement detailed what requirements the company had to meet before outsourcing any of our bargaining unit work.  This allowed the Local Union to hear what the company's business case was and give input on options other than outsourcing the work.
            -Gains were made in both the pension and healthcare plans.


1994 Agreement

            In 1994 the company's proposal included new hires be paid at roughly 70% of the current pay level.  It also included reduced benefits for new hires.  The company also proposed a change from the Standard Hour Plan to a team based incentive system.  When the proposed agreement came up for a vote, it was turned down by 90% of the UAW Workforce.
            It wasn't until February of 1995 when an agreement was reached.
            -Under the 1994 agreement, new hires started out at 70% of the current wage.  Over a 3 year period, they would climb to 100%.
            -The Standard Hour Plan was bought out and replaced by CIPP.  CIPP was a team based incentive system.  Incentive Employees that worked under the Standard Hour Plan from November 1993 through October 1994 would be given a Conversion Factor based off their performance during that time period.  This Conversion Factor would help preserve comparable earnings during the transition to CIPP.
            -1994 saw more improvements to Job Security Language.
            -For the first time, employees with more than 2 weeks of vacation could elect to take single days of vacation instead of 1 week blocks.
            -Continuation of the Excessive Overtime Account.
            -3% performance payment in 1995 and 1996
            -There would be a reduction of 2 members of the Shop Committee during this agreement.
            -Improvements were made in the pension plan.


1997 Agreement

            The 1997 Agreement saw some drastic changes from any previous one . It was the first time that a 6 year Labor Agreement was negotiated.  Business for the company was good, but they had made it clear to the UAW that there would be no future hiring of any substance if there weren't concessions regarding new employees.
            -Employees that hired on or after October 1, 1997 would start out at a lower wage rate.  That rate would grow by about 9.5% over a 5 year period.
            - They would be under a separate health insurance plan.  A separate retirement plan in regards to pension and no healthcare provided after retirement.
            -They would not Qualify for the Earned Bonus Hour Program. 
            -They would not be entitled to Average Earnings. 
            -They would receive 5 EPA days instead of 6 and their Vacation plan would be different. 
            -They would not be entitled to a paid lunch on a 3 shift operation.        -Their Shift Premium Pay would be lower. 
            After the 1997 agreement, the Company immediately started hiring new employees.  Some of the work that had left the factory returned over the next several years.  There were roughly 1,000 UAW members at Harvester Works prior to the 1997 agreement.  There are currently over 2,000 members.   


2003 Agreement

            The 2003 Agreement was another 6 year agreement. 
            -All active employees not on lay off received a $3,000 signing bonus.
            -Post 97 employees would receive a 3% general wage increase twice and be eligible for lump sum payouts the other 4 years.
            -Post 97 employees made large gains in their health insurance.
            -Post 97 employees made gains on their SUB benefits.
            -Pre 97 employees made gains in their pension plan.
            -The Continuous Improvement Process was introduced.
            -The CIPP incentive system was improved by lowering the base adjustment each plan received from potentially 12% per year to a maximum of 4% per year.


2009 Agreement

            2009 Brings another 6 year labor agreement.
            -All employees would receive a $3,500 signing bonus.  That would include employees that were on layoff but still had recall
            -Post 97 employees would receive two 3% general wage increases and 4 lump sum payments over this agreement.
            -Post 97 employees received another EPA day bringing them to 6 per year total.
            -Post 97 employees saw an increase in Shift Premium pay.
            -Post 97 employees could grow into the Job Security language
            -Post 97 employees had made gains in their SUB payment.
            -Post 97 employees improved their pension plan.
            -Pre 97 employees saw an improvement in their pension plan, as well as a retirement bonus of $650.00 per Service Credit if they retire over the life of this agreement.
            -Although it had existed in previous agreements, there was a defined procedure for the company to schedule an Alternative Shift if the requirements were met.
            -Although it remained separate from the language on paid lunch, Post 97 employees in some cases qualified for a paid lunch if they were on a job that had 3 shifts and no opportunity for output during the shift overlap.

The membership of Local 865 has been through plenty of ups and downs over its 70 year history, from the struggles of the 1940s, to the mass layoffs in the 80's, to the Pre/Post 97 distinction. There will be plenty of other challenging times ahead, of that we can be sure.  Solidarity kept us together then, and it will keep us together over the next 70 years.


Local 865 Presidents

Archie Anderson - 1941 - 1946
George Hughes - 1946 - 1948
William Daniels - 1948 - 1954
Arthur Bull - 1954 - 1958
Ray Sprouse - 1958 - 1963
Clark Tracy - 1963 - 1967
Dick Shoemaker - 1967 - 1969
Chuck Theunick - 1969 - 1971
Clark Tracy - 1971 - 1973
Chuck Theunick - 1973 - 1978
Wayne Schumacher - 1978 - 1982
Hershel Roberts - 1982 - 1988
Tom Wallace - 1988 - 1995
Mark Johnson - April 95 - May 95
Chuck Thompson - 1995 - 2005
Larry Moens - 2005 - 2011
Steve Doye - 2011 -


Current Page Arrow

Printable Version

The UAW was founded in May 1935 in Detroit, Michigan, under the auspices of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) after years of agitation within the labor federation. The AFL had focused on organizing craft unions since its founding in 1881 by Samuel Gompers. But at its 1935 convention, a caucus of industrial unions led by John L. Lewis formed the Committee for Industrial Organization, the original CIO, within the AFL. Within one year, the AFL suspended the unions in the CIO, and these, including the UAW, formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

The UAW was one of the first major unions that was willing to organize African-American workers, which increased its ability to garner enough support to win recognition through election. The UAW rapidly found success in organizing with the sit-down strike — first in a General Motors plant in Atlanta, Georgia in 1936, and more famously in the Flint sit-down strike that began on December 29, 1936. That strike ended in February 1937 after Michigan's governor Frank Murphy played the role of mediator, negotiating recognition of the UAW by General Motors. The next month, auto workers at Chrysler won recognition of the UAW as their representative in a sit-down strike.

The UAW's next target was the Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford had promised that "The UAW would organize Ford over my dead body." Ford selected Harry Bennett to keep the union out of the company, and the Ford Service Department was set up as an internal security, intimidation, and espionage unit within the company, and quickly gained a reputation of using violence against union organizers and sympathizers (see The Battle of the Overpass). It took until 1941 for Ford to agree to a collective bargaining agreement with the UAW. By the end of the year, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 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, and that pledge was later reaffirmed by the membership.

At the UAW's constitutional convention in 1946 Walter Reuther won the election for president and served until his death in a small airplane accident in May 1970 — leading the union during one of the most prosperous periods for workers in U.S. history. In the 1960s, the UAW used its strategy of negotiating a contract with one major auto maker and applying it to others to secure a number of new benefits for auto workers, including fully paid hospitalization and sick leave benefits at General Motors and profit sharing in American Motors. The UAW also grew to include workers in other major industries such as the aerospace and agricultural-implement industries.

During this time, UAW members became one of the best paid groups of industrial workers in the country — placing them solidly in the middle class of American society. However, by the end of this period, changes in the global economy, competition from European and Japanese automobile makers, and management decisions at the U.S. automakers had already started to significantly reduce the profits of the major auto makers and set the stage for the drastic changes in the 1970s.

The situation for the automotive industry and UAW members worsened dramatically with the 1973 oil embargo. Rising fuel priced 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, and the UAW found itself in the position of giving up many of the benefits it had won for workers over the decades. By the early 1980s, the state of Michigan had been devastated economically by the losses in jobs and income within the state's largest industry. This peaked with the near-bankruptcy of Chrysler in 1979. As a result of plant closings, cities such as Flint, Lansing, and to a lesser extent Detroit began to lose population and businesses (as was dramatically shown in Michael Moore's movie Roger & Me.)

In 1985 the union's Canadian division disaffiliated from the UAW over a dispute regarding negotiation tactics and formed the Canadian Auto Workers as an independent union. Specifically the Canadian division claimed they were being used to pressure the companies for extra benefits which went mostly to the American members.

The UAW has seen a dramatic decline in membership since the 1970s. Membership topped 1.5 million in 1979.[1] But because of restructuring of the American domestic auto industry, membership fell to approximately 540,000 at the end of 2006[2] and to just under 465,000 members by the end of 2007. The last time the UAW had fewer than 500,000 members was in 1941.

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 (through the subsidiary National Writers Union) and employees of non-profit organizations. And, since the 1980s the UAW is also taking on the organization of academic student employees (aka "ASEs") — typically Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Graders, Tutors — under the slogan "Uniting Academic Workers". As of 2004, the UAW represents more ASEs than any other Union in the United States. Universities with UAW ASE representation include the University of California, California State University, University of Massachusetts, University of Washington, and New York University.