Fuyao settled charges of firing union backers

Jeff Liu, president, Fuyao Glass America. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Jeff Liu, president, Fuyao Glass America. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Company says it was justified in terminating employees

Fuyao Glass America agreed to pay nearly $120,000 total to three employees in a National Labor Relations Board settlement that resolved charges the Moraine auto glass producer terminated the workers for supporting the creation of a union.

Federal documents obtained for the first time by the Dayton Daily News through the Freedom of Information Act show Fuyao reached the agreement with the government and three workers who said they were fired or disciplined because they supported a United Auto Workers campaign in 2016-17 to create a union at Fuyao’s plant off West Stroop Road.

The settlement said the company was expected to pay a total of more than $108,000 in backpay to three workers, plus almost $4,200 in interest, in addition to more than $3,600 in expenses. Excess taxes were also expected to be paid.

“Fuyao categorically denies that it terminated the three employees at issue for supporting union organizing activities,” the company said in an emailed response to the Dayton Daily News. “Rather, the employees were justifiably terminated for violating company policies. While Fuyao believes strongly it would have prevailed in this matter, it elected to settle the charges in 2018 so the company could move forward with focusing on its business operations.”

The names of the employees involved were redacted from the records given to the Dayton Daily News.

The settlement was dated November 2018, “recommended” by Jamie Ireland, a field attorney for the NLRB, and “approved” by Garey Lindsay, regional director for the UAW.

The settlement covered four cases, with allegations ranging from discharging workers, interrogating or disciplining them, refusing to hire them or changing conditions of employment.

It appears two of the unnamed workers voluntarily declined to be reinstated to their jobs. In addition, the company said it would remove from an employee’s file any references to a 2017 verbal warning.

In the new Netflix documentary “American Factory,” Fuyao Glass America Chief Executive Jeff Liu is seen via a subtitled translation telling Fuyao founder and Chairman Cho Tak Wong that he has terminated union supporters from the plant. Terminating workers for supporting a union is a civil violation of federal law.

The documentary film crew captured the statement in a private meeting in which Fuyao managers are seen speaking Mandarin. The makers of the film did not translate the language until about a year after filming was complete.

Liu, in an email to the Dayton Daily News, has called the subtitles “misleading” and incomplete, but the company later released a written statement praising and supporting the work of “American Factory” directors Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar, independent filmmakers based in Yellow Springs.

Bognar has said that Liu expressed no issues with the translations shown when he saw the firm well before the work began streaming on Netflix last week. Bognar and Reichert say they stand by the accuracy of the translations in “American Factory.”

In the settlement, Fuyao was also required to post a notice in English telling workers they have a right to form, assist or join a union, and Fuyao had to promise not to block workers from exercising those rights.

“We will not discipline or fire you because of your membership in or support for the UAW, or any other union,” states the notice that Fuyao was expected to place on an official board where employees could see it.

Fuyao workers soundly rejected a UAW campaign to form a bargaining unit in a November 2017 plant election overseen by the NLRB. The tally was 886 to 441 against forming a union.

Fuyao Glass America was launched by a Chinese billionaire and industrialist in 2014 in the remnants of a former General Motors plant. Today called the largest automobile glass factory in the world, the local plant has more than 2,300 workers and supplies both North American automakers and aftermarket auto glass suppliers.