Auto union membership up first time in 6 years

DETROIT (Reuters) - United Auto Workers membership rose for the first time in six years in 2010, helped by a recovering U.S. auto industry and expanding to include workers outside that industry, the UAW said in a federal filing on Thursday.

UAW membership rose 6 percent in 2010 to 376,612 members, the first rise since 2004, when UAW-represented workers totaled 654,657.

Still, membership is way down since 1979, when it hovered near 1.5 million.

"This increase is a reflection of new organizing by the UAW, the recovery of the domestic auto industry and UAW members who won a first contract during the year," said UAW President Bob King. "We hope to continue this growth in 2011 and beyond, as we fight to win a more fair and democratic process for workers to organize unions in the United States."

Membership has risen in areas outside of the auto industry as the UAW expanded its footprint with gaming workers in Atlantic City, New Jersey, post-doctoral workers at the University of California system and other public and private company workers.

The UAW is currently trying to increase membership by appealing to auto workers at U.S. plants of companies based in Japan including Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T>, Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, and Nissan Motor Co <7201.T>, South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> and Kia Motors <000270.KS> and Germany's Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> and BMW <BMWG.DE>.

The UAW enters contract talks this summer with the three major U.S. automakers General Motors Co <GM.N>, Ford Motor Co <F.N> and Chrysler, which is managed by Fiat SpA <FIA.MI>.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Gary Hill)