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SPRING HILL, Tenn., Nov 21 (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers said on Monday it could set up protests outside the U.S. dealerships representing foreign automakers as part of a campaign to organize workers not represented by the UAW.
UAW President Bob King has said the union's priority is to organize plants in southern U.S. states run by German, Korean and Japanese automakers now that the union has completed new four-year contracts with the U.S. automakers.
King has said that winning representation of workers at one of the so-called transplant factories in Tennessee, Kentucky and other southern U.S. states is key to shoring up UAW membership and protecting the union's bargaining power with U.S. automakers.
The UAW is expected to announce an initial target for its renewed organizing push in the next month.
"We are in discussions, as we have been, in organizing a transplant,' UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, said. "We haven't picked a target but we're very close in doing that."
"When we pick a target there is a possibility that we will look at the dealerships of that particular target," said Ashton, who was speaking at an event to mark the reopening of a General Motors Co plant in Tennessee.
The last time that the UAW picketed at dealerships it targeted Toyota in the spring of 2010 to protest the Japanese automaker's decision to close a union-represented California plant.
Ashton said the UAW was considering sending protesters to dealerships again "throughout the country" to hand out leaflets explaining why the union believed that it was important for the targeted automaker to have a unionized factory
"It's more informational picketing," Ashton told reporters. "It's not traditional picketing. It would be decided when we pick a target. We haven't picked a target yet."
The UAW has been trying without success to organize plants run by Japanese automakers since the 1980s. The most recent UAW organizing push targeted the Nissan Motor Co plant in Tennessee.
A just-opened Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee making the Passat sedan is also a potential target for the UAW, union officials have said.
Ashton said he hoped that GM's record of operating UAW-represented plants in Texas and Tennessee would show that the union can be a partner for management even in "right to work" states where laws prohibit making union membership a condition of employment.
As part of its most recent contract deal with the UAW, GM agreed to invest $61 million to reopen its shuttered plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
The plant, which was once the headquarters for GM's now scrapped Saturn brand, will make the Chevrolet Equinox from the second half of 2012.
"I think it shows that two groups working together can put work in a facility and make it successful," Ashton said, adding that he hoped the GM announcement would give the UAW momentum in organizing a factory run by one of the German or Asian automakers.