According to the Detroit News, the United Auto Workers union, in a major recruiting victory, has won the right to represent 3,100 workers at two North Carolina plants operated by DaimlerChrysler's Freightliner unit.

The newspaper said the victory ended a long and contentious campaign by the union to represent workers at the DaimlerChrysler -owned factories and stemmed a steady erosion in its membership ranks.

The Detroit News said the Freightliner deal could also give the union momentum to recruit other workers in the South, where a growing number of manufacturers have established plants, in part because employees there generally shun unions.

A company spokesman told the newspaper that, during the past week, a majority of workers at Freightliner factories in Cleveland and Gastonia, in North Carolina, approved a "card check" voting process, where workers sign a card signalling support for unionisation.

In 1999, the UAW was unsuccessful in efforts to win the right to represent workers at DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz factory in Alabama, the Detroit News noted.

The newspaper said that a UAW website shows that the union is using the momentum from the Gastonia and Cleveland plant recruiting drives to call for card checks at four other Freightliner plants in the region, beginning with factories in High Point and Gaffney, also in North Carolina, though Freightliner denied such efforts were under way.

The Detroit News said the union and DaimlerChrysler still disagree over what type of organising vote will be allowed at a proposed Dodge commercial van plant to be built in southern Georgia.