Workers solidly defeated the union's bid to represent some 4,800 employees by a nearly 3-1 margin -- 3,103 to 1,486.
It was the second time in 12 years the UAW tried and failed to become the bargaining agent for workers at the plant. The vote was 2-1 against unionizing in 1989.
"We tried to do something different here and it didn't work," UAW head organizer Bob King told Thursday's Detroit News. "They won round two. There will be round three and round four until there's justice for these workers."
King blamed a lack of vocal union supporters inside the plant for the setback, saying organizers had no access to workers on Nissan property. He said Nissan orchestrated an effective anti-union campaign, requiring some workers to attend anti-union meetings and circulating videos of prolonged UAW strikes at Caterpillar and General Motors.
The UAW, one of the nation's largest unions with 671,853 active members, has never won a vote at a Japanese-owned auto factory in the United States.
The union had a peak membership of 1.5 million in 1978-79 during the heyday of the Big Three U.S. automakers -- Ford, GM and Chrysler.
The 18-year-old plant produced about 400,000 Altima sedans, Frontier pickups and Xterra sport-utility-vehicles in 2000.
Nissan began a $1 billion expansion of the plant last year to boost production and shift manufacturing of the company's flagship Maxima sedan from Japan to Tennessee.
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