An auto worker enters the United Auto Workers hall.
An auto worker enters the United Auto Workers hall. - 
Listen To The Story

Bill Radke: The United Auto Workers union is holding its annual meeting this week in Detroit. There, members are discussing how to reach beyond Detroit. Marketplace's Alisa Roth tells us why the UAW wants to sign up workers outside the auto industry.

Alisa Roth: The United Auto Workers has been losing members for a long time. For one thing, the auto industry in the U.S. is a lot smaller than it used to be.

Barry Bluestone is dean of the public policy school at Northeastern University, and he says a union is nothing without members.

Barry Bluestone: They need to have a base both for dues dollars and also for political clout. So reaching out and organizing beyond the traditional base is critical.

The UAW has been trying to organize all kinds of workers, from graduate students to blackjack dealers in casinos. But there are still plenty of auto workers to go after, too. Like the people who work in assembly plants run by Toyota and Hyundai. Rick Hurd is professor of labor studies at Cornell. He says so far, the UAW hasn't been very successful at getting those workers to sign on.

Rick Hurd: I'm sure they won't ignore this, but it is a difficult task, especially for the foreign companies.

Recruiting new members will probably be high on the UAW's agenda this year. The union just elected a new president, Bob King, who's background is in organizing.

I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.