By David Sedgwick Automotive News / July 21, 2003 As the Big 3's U.S. market share continues to erode, the UAW hopes to replenish its membership by organizing foreign-owned assembly plants and suppliers. This year's labor negotiations with General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the DaimlerChrysler could give the union an opportunity to do both. All three automakers will seek an agreement from the UAW to close or sell unwanted plants. In return, the union is expected to seek the automakers' informal blessing to organize non-union suppliers. The UAW also will pressure DaimlerChrysler to support its efforts to organize the company's non-union assembly plant in Vance, Ala., which produces the Mercedes-Benz M class. Nate Gooden, vice president of the UAW's DaimlerChrysler department, said the union hopes to win the automaker's support to unionize 2,000 plant workers. "Vance will be organized very, very soon - in less than a year," said Gooden, who expects DaimlerChrysler to agree. Gooden made his comments last week after the UAW had its first bargaining session with Chrysler's labor negotiators. The union also launched contract talks last week with Ford and GM. The Big 3's labor contracts expire Sept. 14. Gooden is pressing DaimlerChrysler to allow a "card check" at Vance. That would allow the UAW to skip an organizing election if more than half of the plant's hourly workers sign cards in support of the union. DaimlerChrysler has resisted such proposals in the past, citing its "neutrality policy," which requires elections. John Franciosi, Chrysler's senior vice president of employee relations, declined to comment on the UAW's prospects in Vance. Said Franciosi: "We never say no to anything at this point."