Fuyao president talks of firing UAW supporters in ‘American Factory’

In the film “American Factory,” — which premieres on Netflix Wednesday — viewers see Fuyao Glass America President Jeff Liu tell Fuyao Global Chairman Cho Tak Wong that he has fired some supporters of the United Auto Workers’ bid to create a bargaining unit at Fuyao’s Moraine plant.

Via a subtitled translation in the film, we also see Cho threaten to shut the plant down if workers vote a union in.

Both statements were made in private meetings at Fuyao with a documentary crew filming the event.

“American Factory” is a documentary created by Yellow Springs-based filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar. It premieres tonight at the Victoria Theatre in Dayton.

Both filmmakers told the Dayton Daily News they worked with teams of translators to accurately translate the Mandarin spoken by Chinese workers into English subtitles.

Fuyao workers rejected UAW representation in a National Labor Relations Board-overseen election at the plant by a two-to-one margin, 886 to 441, after a day and a half of voting in November 2017.

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But during the UAW’s campaign to unionize the plant in 2016 and 2017, some UAW supporters said they were being singled out for punishment or termination.

According to the National Labor Relations Act, employees have “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations.”

According to a section of that law, it is an unfair labor practice for an employer "to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7" of the act.

“For example, you may not threaten employees with adverse consequences, such as closing the workplace, loss of benefits, or more onerous working conditions, if they support a union, engage in union activity, or select a union to represent them,” the NLRB says.

Cynthia Harper, a former Fuyao employee and a UAW supporter during the union’s campaign, testified before a House subcommittee in March 2019 that Fuyao fired her.

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“I was fired while on medical leave for allegedly exceeding available leave time,” Harper told the House Education and Labor, Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee. “I was fired just days after the UAW filed a petition to represent a unit of Fuyao employees.

“It didn’t seem fair since I had a good record with the company,” Harper added in the testimony. “My performance and attendance was good. I organized department bowling parties. It didn’t seem right.”

The NLRB investigated some of the union supporters’ claims last year. An attorney for the NLRB, Joseph Tansino, told Cincinnati’s federal court in an August 2018 filing that Fuyao “has impeded and continues to impede the unfair labor practice investigation before the board and is preventing the board from carrying out its duties and functions under the act.”

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In September 2018, the NLRB asked a federal judge to withdraw an application to enforce a subpoena against Fuyao.

Reached Monday, Tansino declined to comment. A message was left for Matthew Denholm, assistant regional director at the NLRB’s Cincinnati office.

Messages were also left with representatives of Fuyao.

“This is yet another example of why U.S. labor laws are stacked against workers and enforcement needs to be strengthened," a UAW spokesman said in an email Monday. "While we were not aware of those comments at the time, firing supporters and threatening to shut a plant appear to be clear violations of U.S. Labor Law. Fuyao workers deserved better from management and quite frankly from American labor laws which stacked the deck against them.”

This newspaper reported in December 2017 that Fuyao paid $747,410 to an Oklahoma-based consulting firm that boasted of helping companies in the art of “union avoidance,” according to a document filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Labor Relations Institute Inc./LRI Consulting Services Inc., based in Broken Arrow, Okla., filed a receipts and disbursements report with the Department of Labor in 2016 that said it was working for Fuyao.

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