DETROIT - Volkswagen (IW 1000/7) was embroiled on Februrary 25 in a standoff with employees at its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where labor officials say it has refused to recognize a union chosen by workers to represent them.

Chattanooga, with some 1,600 workers, is the only Volkswagen plant in world without union representation, the UAW said.

The AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for several U.S. trade unions, has challenged Volkswagen USA to live up to its corporate principles, after the company refused to negotiate with the union representation chosen by its workers.

In December, workers in the skilled trades at the Chattanooga plant became the first workers in the southern United States to vote for union representation when 70% of them voted to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.

The election was supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

The AFL-CIO said Volkswagen's refusal to bargain is not only a reversal of its pre-election commitments, but a violation of its own Declaration on Social Rights.

"To regain the trust of its stakeholders, Volkswagen must make corporate social responsibility (CSR) more than just a slogan and a public relations strategy," the AFL-CIO said.

Volkswagen is planning to use the Chattanooga plant to build a new sport utility vehicle, the Cross Blue."

The facility is also critical to VW's goal of repairing its damaged brand in the U.S., amid a major ongoing scandal, after thousands of cars sold in the U.S. were outfitted with devices that allowed Volkswagen to circumvent U..S emissions standards on its diesel cars.

Scott Wilson, spokesman of Volkswagen of America, rejected "speculation" that the company was trying to appease Tennessee's conservative political establishment, which has fought to keep the UAW from gaining a foothold in the Chattanooga facility.

Since the victory in the representation election, the UAW has pressed VW to negotiate a new contract for the 160 members of the unit.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016