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Connect the Dots | History of United Auto Workers

UAW's history dates back to the early 1900s when Henry Ford launched his assembly line to mass-produce automobiles.
Credit: Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — Organized labor unions have a rich history in the United States, and United Auto Workers, or UAW,  is just one of many organizations. 

UAW's history dates back to the early 1900s when Henry Ford launched his assembly line to mass-produce automobiles. Workers found the work to be hard. and they had almost no safety protections. 

Ford employees tried to organize for better working conditions and pay, but they didn't have any luck.

In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Wagner Act requiring employers to recognize and bargain with organized unions. Shortly after, UAW was formed in Detroit, Michigan. 

A year later, UAW members went on strike at General Motors and were finally recognized as a legitimate union. 

More on the John Deere worker strike

The UAW helped workers get better pay and pensions through the 1940s and 1950s. However, membership declined in the 1970s with automation, decreased use of labor and global market competition. 

Today, UAW members work in industries like auto parts, health care, agriculture, aerospace and more.

Being a member of UAW gives workers protection when issues arise at their jobs, like when new contracts are negotiated. Workers also pay dues out of their paychecks to be a member.

Watch more John Deere strike coverage on Local 5's YouTube channel

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