By Ryan Velez
Founded or unfounded, there is a great deal of fear in this country that foreign interests are eating up many of the available jobs, leaving Americans with little opportunity. In fact, this fear pushed Donald Trump in the White House. However, one story from MSN.com tells a different tale: a Chinese glassmaker taking over an abandoned General Motors plant, bringing in jobs rather than taking them. However, taking a different culture’s sense of business and acclimating it to American workers is not always a simple task.
Chinese company Fuyao Glass Industry Group made the move figuring that it made sense to spend the money to be close to its top customers, American-based automakers who buy millions of windshields. In the process, they brought over 1,500 jobs to the Dayton, Ohio area. This isn’t a rarity. The Rhodium Group estimates that since 2000, Chinese have invested almost $120 billion in the United States. Half of this amount comes from early 2016 on.
Fuyao is having some troubles though, with workers debating whether or not the company is truly committed to American standards and supervision on the factory floor and even anger at home. Comments made by Chairman Cao Dewang led to a debate about China’s competitiveness. One person wrote that “Cao Dewang behaved like a traitor,” on the popular blogging site Weibo. “You set up a factory in the U.S. to solve employment there.”
Stateside, the union, which began meeting with workers in 2015, began stepping up its public profile after reporting arbitrary rules and retaliation against those who spoke up. One employee said that people were disciplined for not reporting their paid time off with enough advance, while another said they were exposed to chemicals that blistered his arms and diminished his lung capacity. Even Fred Strahorn, the Democratic minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives, made a comment that Fuyao’s operation was reminiscent “a little bit of a hostage situation” and pledged to “show Fuyao that we do things a little bit different in Dayton, Ohio,” In November, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Fuyao more than $225,000 for violations such as insufficient access to locks that shut down power to a machine when workers fix or maintain it. These lapses are common in a very competitive industry like auto parts but are still dangerous.
This isn’t to say that Fuyao isn’t providing some benefit to the community. Cao himself points out that “If I didn’t invest in the Dayton area, it’s very unlikely anyone would invest any more in the automotive glass industry in the U.S.” However, investors sometimes fail to adjust or learn to American regulatory and political environments, as we see here.