Even though the vote was held without input from Volkswagen, workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., have voted to turn down unionization efforts by the United Auto Workers (UAW), which was looking for a victory here to carry it to another win at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala. The vote was 712 against and 626 in favor.

UAW President Bob King, looking to expand his union's reach after decades of decline, blamed the defeat on threats and pressure by Republican legislators, specifically Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker.

The vote was held in the shadow of recently reintroduced rules by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to speed up unionization votes by truncating employer powers to press their viewpoint.

The UAW has threatened a lawsuit over the results, citing undue influence. One pro-union voter, Edward Hunter, however, told the New York Times that many workers were "hereditarily anti-union."

UAW's King said "we don't quit" and vowed to fight on in Alabama, another Republican stronghold.

On Monday, following news of the unionization defeat, Volkswagen announced that it still planned to set up a Tennessee works council, which would be comprised of employees elected by the workforce and would have a say in all company operations. "We know from many discussions with our colleagues in Chattanooga that there is great interest on the part of workers to establish worker representation inside the plant," said Gunnar Kilian, secretary-general of VW's works council in Germany.

Legal experts cautioned, however, that there is no provision for such a works council in U.S. law unless it is run by a trade union.