Workers at the Fuyao auto glass plant in Ohio voted against unionizing by a two-to-one margin, in another setback for the United Auto Workers Union, which failed in its efforts at Nissan and VW plants as well in recent years
Detroit (AFP) - The United Auto Workers has suffered another stinging defeat as workers overwhelmingly voted against unionizing at the Chinese-owned Fuyao car glass plant in Ohio.
UAW officials blamed what they called the company’s aggressive anti-union tactics, and labor experts said it showed that companies have the advantage over efforts by workers to unionize.
Fuyao officials welcomed the decision to reject the union.
The company’s founder had caused a stir in China last year by shifting part of his empire to the United States, citing high taxes and soaring labor costs at home.
Employees at the former UAW stronghold in the town of Moraine rejected the idea of unionizing by a two-to-one margin in an election late Thursday that was supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. The final tally showed the UAW lost by a vote of 868-444.
Union organizers went into the election with high hopes but instead suffered the latest in a series of defeats. And as in August, when the effort to organize workers at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, failed, the union blamed the loss on what they described as a management campaign conducted within the plant.
“Fuyao Workers fighting for a voice in their workplace were unable to win against a barrage of anti-labor tactics and intimidation by management at the Ohio glass plant,” the union said in a statement.
“It is disheartening to know that in 2017 there are companies willing to do so much to deny workers a voice and fair treatment,” said UAW regional director Rich Rankin.
Harley Shaiken, a labor expert at the University of California, Berkeley said US labor law gives employers an advantage because they can use company resources to counter a union’s appeal to workers.
Rankin said Fuyao workers had come to the union with complaints about unsafe workplace conditions, arbitrary policies and unfair and unequal treatment on the job.
In addition to the defeat in Ohio and at the Nissan plant in August, which the UAW also lost by a two-to-one margin, the union also narrowly lost in its effort to unionize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee in February 2014.
The UAW later won a vote among skilled trades employees at the VW plant. But the company challenged the results and the union has yet to reach a settlement to negotiate a contract with the German automaker.
Fuyao praised the decision of the Ohio workers to reject what an official called the UAW’s “desperate attempt to prop up its revenue in the face of declining union membership worldwide.”
“We are pleased that associates chose to maintain a direct relationship with our company and resist the union’s attempt to intervene,” Fuyao President Jeff Daochuan Liu said.
Fuyao acquired the former General Motors plant in 2014 and opened its first US manufacturing plants the following year as it began to expand its presence in the North American market.
The company’s $600 million investment in Ohio came just after then White House candidate Donald Trump threatened to declare Beijing a currency manipulator and slap 45 percent punitive tariffs on Chinese imports to protect American jobs.
As president, Trump has considerably softened his tone on China, going so far as to praise Chinese business acumen, notably on his trip this week to Beijing.
Ironically, amid Trump’s push to lower US corporate tax rates to attract investment and create jobs, Fuyao’s 70-year-old founder, tycoon Cao Dewang, complained in December about the high taxes and soaring labor costs in China.
The businessman’s decision to open a glass factory in Ohio – a rare case of jobs being exported from China to the US – triggered an outpouring of criticism on Chinese social media.
Founded in 1987, Fuyao is a major force in the auto parts market and produces 23 percent of the world’s car windows. Its customers include most of the world’s largest automakers, including Ford, General Motors, BMW, Toyota and Volkswagen.