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CA labor regulators drop minimum wage citations against BYD

The downtown Los Angeles headquarters of BYD — it stands for
The downtown Los Angeles headquarters of BYD — it stands for "Build Your Dreams"
Matthew DeBord

The California Department of Industrial Relations has dropped citations against Chinese-owned Electric bus maker BYD for paying some workers below the minimum wage.

Last October, the Department of Industrial Relations fined BYD $100,000 for failing to provide workers at its Los Angeles office and Lancaster factory the mandated California minimum wage, workers' compensation insurance, proper rest breaks and sufficient pay documentation.  

In a statement released Tuesday, the office of Labor Commissioner Julie Su stated that BYD has since provided records that show a combination of salaries, bonuses and cost-of-living adjustments paid in China appeared to meet the minimum wage. 

"The Labor Commissioner agreed to modify the minimum wage citation based on this information from the  companies," the statement read, referring to BYD. 

BYD's attorney Lanny Davis said the company's documents showed that five people brought in from China to work temporarily last year were paid the equivalent of between $12 and $16 per hour - well above California's minimum wage of $8 per hour. 

"However, the Labor Commissioner's position is that BYD should have paid these five employees in U.S. dollars, not in their home currency," Davis said in a statement. "While BYD disagrees with this position as a matter of law, in the spirit of resolving this matter, BYD has agreed to pay $1,900 for this alleged error."

The charges related to rest breaks and pay documentation remain in dispute, and BYD denies them.  

The citations against BYD prompted a protest in late October by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)  and other advocacy groups outside the company's headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.  They accused the company of bringing in workers from China and failing to deliver on promises to create jobs in Los Angeles.  

"They brought people over here for $1.50 an hour plus the stipend to be accountants,  bookkeepers, sales representatives, to do the work of the company that they promised the city and transit agencies would be done by unemployed people from Los Angeles," said LAANE's national policy director Madeline Janis at the protest.    She said the city of Los Angeles should cut ties with BYD, and the Los Angeles County and Long Beach transit agencies should reopen the competition for contracts BYD won in both places to build electric buses.  

In response to the to dropping of the minimum wage citations, Janis said she still wants to see BYD create local jobs.

"We are hopeful that this is signaling a different attitude and practice by BYD  toward their commitment to creating good American jobs, " Janis told KPCC  Tuesday. "But we expect that the public entities that deal with them will hold their feet to the fire. "