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By Elvina Nawaguna
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - United Auto Workers President Bob King said on Monday the union will attempt to hold an election at the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to determine if the UAW could represent workers there.
King, who didn't say when the vote would be held, said the union couldn't aim for a certification by Volkswagen because of sabotage by "right-wing" anti-union forces.
"These forces against us are more aggressive and bolder than ever in our history," King said while addressing union members at the group's conference in Washington.
"Only because of the right wing attacks, the right wing pressure, we're going to have to go to an election there," said King.
"A vote at Volkswagen, whatever the outcome, will send reverberations throughout the Southern auto industry," said Dennis Cuneo, a managing partner of pro-management law firm Fisher & Phillips. Cuneo made his comments to Reuters by email.
In addition to Volkswagen, the UAW has ongoing organizing drives to attempt to represent workers at Nissan Motor Co plants in Mississippi and Tennessee and at a Daimler AG Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama.
UAW membership has fallen steadily since reaching a peak of nearly 1.5 million in 1979 to almost 400,000 in 2012, due to automation at assembly plants and a declining share of the U.S. auto market for U.S. automakers General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Outside of union membership at a Mitsubishi Motors Corp plant in the Midwest, nearly all UAW members at automakers are from GM, Ford and Chrysler.
In Washington three years ago, King said that the union has no long-term viability without successful organizing of foreign-owned auto plants, most of which are in the U.S. South, where anti-union sentiment runs high.
King and the UAW have been attempting to organize the VW plant for more than two years, and believe they have support of a majority of the 1,550 blue-collar workers at Chattanooga.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right To Work Foundation, said that the UAW failed in its attempt to add a union without a vote by having Volkswagen certify it.
"A secret-ballot election is what Foundation-assisted workers were asking for all along," said Mix in an email to Reuters.
(Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bernadette Baum)