By Nadine Levyfield of Jobs to Move America
On Tuesday, Dec. 1, Jobs to Move America protested outside the Los Angeles headquarters of BYD Motors, Inc., a Chinese electric bus company, to denounce the failure of BYD to create promised living wage jobs for local residents in exchange for over $39 million in city and state tax dollars.
Public agencies have awarded BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, over $39 million in public money and tax credits since 2010, with the promise that it would create electric buses, good jobs, and economic opportunity for low-income Angelenos.
Since that time, BYD has broken its promises to taxpayers and workers with its lack of accountability. Wage issues, health and safety concerns, and information that buses are actually being made in China call for public officials to examine each contract to hold BYD accountable.
Exactly what public funds did BYD receive from Los Angeles, California, and LA Metro?
- A $1.6 million grant from the City of Los Angeles in 2010 to build BYD’s headquarters in the U.S. by refurbishing a downtown LA office; creating 58 full-time jobs by August 2015, 51% of which would be Los Angeles residents, and targeting 24 jobs low-income persons.
- A $4.2 million subsidy package from the Los Angeles City Council in 2010 to create real economic development and good jobs.
- A $20.7 million contract with the Los Angeles Metro Transportation Authority in 2013 to buy five zero-emission buses, with the option to purchase up to 20 more, with a provision about creating local jobs.
- A $3 million tax credit from the State of California in 2014 to expand BYD’s operations in Los Angeles and Lancaster and increase its workforce to 625 by 2018.
View relevant public documents and contracts regarding BYD at http://jobstomoveamerica.org/byd/.
After being awarded multi-millions in public funds, BYD faced criticism for breaking its promises.
First, there was confusion on how to pay its workers in U.S. dollars, which drew widespread attention to how BYD treats both its U.S. and Chinese national workers. In 2014, CA labor officials ordered BYD to pay nearly $38,000 in penalties after a hearing officer found that BYD failed to provide workers with proper rest periods or itemized paychecks.
Most recently, BYD workers have told Jobs to Move America that the company has been paying its workers at or just above minimum wage, without access to affordable benefits. Workers have also shared information about health and safety problems in the Lancaster electric bus factory.
These allegations increase concerns that BYD has not been creating good U.S. jobs according to its contract timeline, potentially violating its agreements with public agencies including the City of Los Angeles, State of California, and LA Metro. Despite BYD’s contracts and the promises the company has made, the outcome has been poverty jobs with complaints of serious worker health and safety problems.
Additionally, the BYD contract with LA Metro, obtained through a public records act request, shows that BYD and LA Metro made a deal after a contract was finalized, changing the terms. BYD originally proposed to create assembly, maintenance, and operations jobs in Los Angeles and Lancaster. LA Metro subsequently gave this job plan high marks. However, after LA Metro approved the contract, BYD reversed its commitment to create U.S. jobs and insisted that to keep the negotiated price, the buses needed to be made in BYD’s facility in Changsha, China. Public tax dollars that were designated to create jobs in the U.S. were then directed to China. Tax dollars were awarded to BYD to build buses in Los Angeles and create local jobs; yet the buses were made in China.
“We demand accountability. We want our money back,” says Madeline Janis, Director of Jobs to Move America. “Our organization represents taxpaying organizations and individuals from the Los Angeles region. BYD is a company built by American tax dollars and its promise is to create good jobs in the U.S., and we must hold BYD accountable to its promise to create good jobs.”
The protest outside of BYD’s headquarters in Los Angeles called on public agencies to scrutinize each contract made with BYD in order to review whether BYD is keeping its promises, including compliance with the City’s Living Wage Ordinance.
Speakers from the Jobs to Move America Coalition included: Madeline Janis of Jobs to Move America, Chloe Osmer (Organizer at AFL-CIO), Manuel Gonzalez (Organizer at SMART, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers), Gabriella Landeros (Press Secretary at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor), and Rev. William Smart (President and CEO at Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California).
Following the event, a delegation delivered a letter to BYD management. [Read it here.]
“On this sacred day, the 60th anniversary of when Rosa Parks sat down and refused to get up, ironically, from a bus, we are here today saying that BYD workers deserve respect and good jobs,” says Rev. William Smart, President and CEO at Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California.
See a story from the Los Angeles Times published Dec. 1 at http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-wage-promise-20151201-story.html.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The AV Times.
Editor’s note: BYD has two manufacturing facilities in Lancaster – an electric bus manufacturing facility and an Iron-Phosphate energy module (large scale battery) manufacturing facility.