CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -

Workers at a Volkswagen factory in Tennessee have rejected the United Auto Workers union.

The 712-626 vote is a devastating blow to the union and its efforts to organize other Southern plants run by foreign automakers.

About 1,500 workers were eligible to vote during three days of balloting that ended Friday night.

Experts say it was the best chance for the union to gain a foothold in the South, where it's been shunned by other workers.

The vote marks the first attempt to unionize a foreign automaker in the U.S.

The war over this vote has been raging in Tennessee, with state Republicans like Sen. Bob Corker, who spoke out and voted against a bailout for General Motors and Chrysler leading the anti-UAW charge.

"So they can't help with wages -- it's about power," said Corker.

A yes vote would have meant that Chattanooga's VW plant would become the first foreign automaker facility in the U.S. have its workers represented by the UAW. Gere Glaspie, from UAW Local 106, said claims that this vote is pivotal nationally are overblown.

"I don't feel that this has long-range impact. It's an organization driven by something the union does every day," said Glaspie. "Sixteen hundred votes is not going to change the world."

Late Friday night, the UAW released a statement which in part reads, "While we're outraged by politicians and outside special interest groups interfering with the basic legal right of workers to form a union, we're proud that these workers were brave and stood up to the tremendous pressure from the outside."