State lawmakers pick sides on UAW efforts at Fuyao

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State lawmakers pick sides on UAW efforts at Fuyao

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Fuyao Glass America workers Dustin Sparkman, left, and Deraesha Stewart work as a team to clean and quality check windshields in the Moraine plant in this 2016 photo. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Public officials are choosing sides in the United Auto Workers’ efforts to unionize the Fuyao Glass America Plant in Moraine.

Letters from officials and lawmakers in both parties are circulating, urging the company to accept unionization efforts or, alternatively, advising workers not to embrace “outside forces.”

In an “open letter” released Monday, 15 Republican lawmakers said in part:

“Unfortunately, we understand that there are outside forces trying to come into Fuyao. We are confident in Fuyao’s leadership in being able to work out all issues with you internally and quickly. This choice is up to you as employees to make. As those who represent you every day and fight for you, we urge you to reject these outside forces.”

“We will stand with you and Fuyao as the company continues to grow and develop,” the letter adds. “Please do not hesitate to reach out to us.”

The letter appears over the signatures of Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miami Twp.), State Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), Staet Sen. Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City), State Rep. Bill Dean (R-Xenia) and 11 other members of the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate. 

But an earlier letter from Democrats and union supporters, dated Oct. 16, was sent to Jeff Liu, president of Fuyao Glass America.

“We believe that Fuyao has an obligation to pay fair wages, ensure a safe workplace, comply with all applicable laws, and respect workers’ right to form a union and collectively bargain, if that is what they choose,” said that letter, signed by State Rep. and Ohio House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn and 31 others, including Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland.

“We stand with the workers at Fuyao Glass, and are prepared to stand with them every step of the way as they join together to make positive changes at the plant,” that letter added.

As this news outlet first reported last week, workers at Fuyao’s Moraine plant filed with the National Labor Relations Board for a vote on whether to accept representation by the UAW.

Some workers have said the company’s management and disciplinary policies are arbitrary and unpredictable while other workers have pointed to what they say are safety problems at the plant.

Fuyao has about 2,000 workers at the the West Stroop Road plant, which the company says is the world’s largest automotive glass production operation.

In an interview Monday, Antani said he wrote the letter, which springs from “conversations we’ve had with Fuyao’s leadership regarding the situation.”

Beyond that, it’s up to workers whether to accept or reject the union, Antani said.

“Our job here is not to be directly involved with the election,” he said. “It is the workers’ choice.”

He recalled that at the plant’s groundbreaking ceremony last October, Sen. Sherrod Brown in public remarks endorsed efforts to unionize the plant. Antani said he felt that was inappropriate.

“Democrats came out with this first,” Antani said. “We’re being much more light-handed.”

In response, Brown’s office said: “Sen. Brown will always speak out for Ohio workers and fight for workers’ rights to decide for themselves whether to collectively bargain.”

Asked for a response to the letters, Fuyao’s general counsel released a statement saying: “Fuyao is grateful for the support of Rep. Antani and Sen. Lehner, as well as the other signatories to their letter.

“In the coming weeks, Fuyao’s workforce will be making an important decision about their future. Fuyao hopes that its associates will consider and weigh the information provided to them by these leaders. No matter their decision, Fuyao respects the right of its associates to choose for themselves,” Fuyao said. 

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