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CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee - If the United Auto Workers wins this week's historic election at Volkswagen's three-year-old Chattanooga factory, the union could use the victory as a springboard to organize other foreign-owned plants in the South and revive its waning influence on the U.S. labor movement.
The three-day secret ballot, conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, began Wednesday and closes Friday night.
The UAW appears to have its best chance of a major victory in 30 years. But its bid to represent VW's 1,550 hourly workers faces fierce resistance from local politicians and national conservative groups and is too close to call.
A defeat could scuttle the 400,000-member union's latest attempt to stem a decades-long decline in membership, revenue and influence.
If the union wins, VW would institute a German-style works council, with members elected by plant employees, to make key decisions about how the facility is run. The UAW would bargain over wages and benefits, but cede to the council traditional bargaining prerogatives such as work rules and training.