In a closely watched vote, Nissan workers at a Canton, Miss., plant rejected the United Auto Workers by a 2-to-1 margin in an organizing vote concluded late Friday, dealing a major blow to the union's hopes to make inroads in the south. The vote was 2,244 to 1,307.

"With this vote, the voice of Nissan employees has been heard. They have rejected the UAW and chosen to self-represent, continuing the direct relationship they enjoy with the company. Our expectation is that the UAW will respect and abide by their decision and cease their efforts to divide our Nissan family. Now that the election is complete, Nissan will focus on bringing all employees back together as one team, building great vehicles and writing our next chapter in Mississippi," the company's North American branch said in a statement.

UAW blamed company opposition for the defeat. "The result of the election was a setback for these workers, the UAW and working Americans everywhere, but in no way should it be considered a defeat," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "Perhaps recognizing they couldn't keep their workers from joining our union based on the facts, Nissan and its anti-worker allies ran a vicious campaign against its own workforce that was comprised of intense scare tactics, misinformation, and intimidation."

The National Labor Relations Board, the main federal labor law enforcement agency, filed an unfair-labor-practices complaint against the company last week acting on allegations by the union acting on behalf of six workers.

Unions have long struggled to build support in the labor union-resistant southern states, a task that has become more urgent in recent years as foreign manufacturers, particularly auto companies, have increasingly located there. UAW's membership currently stands at 415,000, according to its most recent Labor Department filings. That's down from 464,000 a decade ago and over 700,000 in 2001.

In 2014, UAW lost a high-profile effort to organize a Chattanooga Volkswagen plant when workers voted 712-626 against it. That was after Volkswagen gave the union access to the plant and stood neutral in the vote.

UAW was able to secure enough worker signatures to force a federally monitored organizing vote — 30 percent of eligible workers is required — but Nissan has suggested the election was actually a pretext, and the union didn't expect to win. The union's real goal, the company has suggested, was to gain the workers' contact information, which the company must turnover when a vote is ordered regardless of whether individual workers consent to this, and use that to try to build support for a future organizing bid.