Instead, the UAW under President Bob King meekly took additional profit-sharing and promised to get tougher in the 2015 round of talks.
As it turns out, that's going to be too late to win the hearts of VW Chattanooga workers.
In the vote's aftermath, the UAW and its allies are blaming outside political interference for the defeat. But that's plain wrong.
Sure, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told a whopper that the plant would lose product if the UAW won. But VW management immediately corrected that rank manipulation. And you can trust that workers weren't unduly influenced by some billboards and words coming from other agenda-driven politicians.
No, the cards in this election were stacked in favor of the UAW and the union still lost.
VW all but opened the doors to the UAW. The company let the union campaign inside the plant, while it stayed neutral on the vote.
The UAW also far outspent any opponents to the union. It's no secret that the UAW's powerful strike fund has shrunk by tens of millions of dollars over the past three years as the union has poured time and money into organizing the transplants in the south.
The real reason the UAW lost in Chattanooga is the union's decade-long track record of negotiating terms more favorable to the Detroit 3 than the hourly workers it represents.
During the auto industry bailouts, concessions were needed, especially an end to the Jobs Bank. But two-tier wages pre-dated the bailouts. And it's mind-boggling that veteran UAW auto workers will not have received a wage increase in 12 years by the time the current four-year agreement expires in 2015. Inflation has ravaged those wages over time.
In short, the UAW has swung the pendulum too far toward "cooperative partnership" and away from hard-nosed negotiating on behalf of members. All the UAW had to sell at VW Chattanooga were soft concepts such as worker democracy and strong health and safety standards that workers there already enjoy.
Presumed incoming UAW President Dennis Williams will have a chance in 2015 to reverse that trend.
If the UAW is ever to organize another non-Detroit 3 auto plant, Mr. Williams is going to need to get the balance right between worker needs and the health of the companies.
Reporter David Barkholz wrote this blog for the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.