United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams said the union is making progress in its bid to organize two German auto plants in the South.

The union suffered a big setback in February, when Volkswagen workers voted 712-626 to reject creating a German-style works council at its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant. The vote came after heavy pressure from Republican lawmakers. That prompted the UAW to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, but the union ultimately dropped the legal challenge because, it said, it could have taken years to resolve.

In July, the UAW announced it would create a local union in Chattanooga in the hopes that if it can convince a significant number of workers to join the local the German automaker will recognize as Local 42. The UAW — which says more than 750 workers have signed up — wants VW to recognize it without having a formal election.

“It’s going exceptionally well,” Williams said. He declined to say if VW planned to recognize the UAW.

Williams confirmed the union plans to open a local in Vance, Ala., near the Mercedes-Benz plant, and make a similar attempt to convince workers to voluntarily join.

Daimler AG chairman Dieter Zetsche said last month the German automaker is neutral on efforts by the UAW to organize its only U.S. plant, but said he has had no talks with the union about renewed organizing efforts in Alabama.

“That’s up to our employees to make their call,” Zetsche said. “We will maintain our position of neutrality.”

He noted that workers for nearly 20 years have declined to unionize in Alabama.

Williams said the union needs to rethink its efforts to organize foreign car companies. “We have to be more thoughtful about how we approach organizing drives and political activity, communications and a whole lot of things.”

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