The UAW's membership rolls grew slightly in 2012 as the auto industry rebounded, even though the union did not achieve its longstanding goal of organizing a major auto factory in the South.
The UAW had 382,513 members at the end of 2012, according to the union's annual regulatory filing Thursday with the U.S. Labor Department. That is up 0.4 percent over 2011, but still low by historic standards for a union that had 701,818 members as recently as 2001 and more than 1.5 million members at its peak in 1979.
It is the third consecutive year the union's membership ranks have increased.
The tally does not include workers who have been organized but have not yet finished bargaining their first contract, or those who have not yet signed membership cards, the UAW said.
With those members included, the number of workers would be above 400,000.
The Detroit 3, which account for the bulk of the union's membership, have rehired and added factory workers in recent years as industry sales and output have rebounded from the 2008-09 downturn.
"UAW membership continues on a steady path of recovery, even in the face of concerted attacks on workers and collective bargaining," UAW President Bob King said in a statement.
The union's membership has dwindled and remained low in recent years as the auto industry -- notably the Detroit 3 and suppliers -- has contracted. Meanwhile, the UAW has struggled to organize automotive plants run by Asian and European automakers. Many of these plants are in the South, where workers are typically wary of labor unions.
King, who has said the union must recruit more members to ensure its long-term survival, has tried using new tactics -- such as softening some of its stances on international trade -- in an effort to break the impasse.
"Our commitment to our core values has not changed," he said during a 2010 speech that outlined his goals for a new model of organized labor. "Our strategies to achieve these core values must change to be effective in the new world we live in."
This year the union has focused on organizing efforts at Nissan Motor Co.'s U.S. plants, including a Canton, Miss., assembly plant.
Last month, union representatives met with workers from Nissan's plant in Smyrna, Tenn., signaling another attempt to organize the plant, The Tennessean reported.
In 1989 and 2001 workers at the Smyrna plant conducted a vote on whether to join the UAW and rejected the union by a 2-to-1 margin.