Electric-bus manufacturer accused of labor violations


Hurling allegations of low wages, broken promises and substandard quality, protesters target the Los Angeles headquarters of Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer, BYD Motors.

"Not only were BYD's promises for new jobs hollow promises, but their treatment of workers was rotten," said AFL-CIO organizer Chloe Osmer.

BYD began operating in Los Angeles in 2010 after striking a $1.6 million contract with the city of Los Angeles to establish its North American corporate headquarters downtown and manufacture all-electric public transportation buses at the company's Lancaster facility, which opened in May.

Long Beach Transit contracted with BYD and in June, L.A. Metro announced it was ordering five new buses from the company and potentially another 20 later. The deal included a promise from BYD to create jobs for local workers.

"We believe that BYD instead brought over some of its Chinese workforce," said Madeline Janis, co-founder and national policy director of Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE).

Community advocacy groups, including the AFL-CIO and LAANE, say the state of California cited and fined BYD for violating state labor laws. They allege BYD is paying Chinese nationals working in L.A. $1.50 per hour plus a $50 daily allowance.

"We call on L.A. Metro, we call on Long Beach Transit, to reconsider those contracts," said Janis. "We call on the city of L.A. to take back our $1.6 million that was given for this building and invest it in real job-creating businesses."

Thursday afternoon, an MTA spokesman Marc Littman said: "We will make sure that BYD upholds our contract and complies with all laws. We are hopeful that their labor issues will be resolved long before they start building our first production bus."

BYD released a statement Thursday: "Questions have been raised about the wages paid to a few technology experts who are visiting here temporarily from BYD's parent company in China to train our American workforce but the information being disseminated is incomplete. We have reached out to the California Labor Commissioner's Office to address these issues and hope to reach a conciliatory and satisfactory resolution. BYD is fully committed to being a good corporate citizen and employer in California," wrote BYD America Vice President Michael Austin

According to BYD's contract with the city of L.A., it has until August 2015 to meet the terms of the contract.

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