Organized labor suffered a major defeat on Friday night in Tennessee, when the United Auto Workers (UAW) narrowly lost a vote to unionize the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Chattanooga. Workers voted 712-626 against forming a union, ending months of bitter campaigning on the part of both the UAW and its conservative opponents. Those opponents did not include Volkswagen, which announced early on that it would not challenge the UAW’s organizing drive. Instead, the German auto-maker welcomed cooperation with the union in hopes that they could form a cooperative “works council” modelled after the labor-management governing structures found in much of Germany’s private sector. For its part, the UAW was hoping to extend its influence in the historically anti-union South, now that organized labor’s strength has significantly waned in traditional Rust Belt strongholds like Michigan. But despite Volkswagen’s assent, the UAW faced unexpectedly strong opposition from the state Republican Party and conservative special interest groups.