The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, better known as the 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 left-wing 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 gaming and higher education. Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, the union has about 390,000 active members and more than 600,000 retired members in 750 local unions, which negotiated 2,500 contracts with some 1,700 employers.