China’s BYD fined for paying Chinese workers $1.50 per hour in California

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BYD Los Angeles Showroom

BYD is a mainland Chinese company, specialising in green technologies.  Shares in the company are traded on the mainland in Shenzhen and off-shore in Hong Kong. The company is controlled by the co-founders. Berkshire HathawayWarren Buffett’s holding company, owned 9.56 % of the company as of June 30, 2013.

The company has established a presence in the United States in California. Since its start in the United States three and half years ago, the company has established an administrative office in downtown Los Angeles and a future manufacturing facility in nearby Lancaster, California. These facilities were developed with the assistance of Los Angeles in the hope of generating green collar jobs.

The company has employed fewer than 40 workers, some of which are Chinese workers. The Chinese workers were brought to the United States to live in a dormitory-like setting in the San Gabriel Valley. The State of California has assessed fines of about $ 100,000 for not paying the Chinese workers the state prescribed minimum wage of $ 8 per hour.

The workers, paid in RMB, were receiving $1.50 an hour and $50 a day.  The Chinese employee’s wages are about 12 % below the minimum wage required at Foxconn, manufacturer of many electronic products, most notably Apple products, in China. The company was also not properly reporting these employees to State offices. The company’s defence was the employees were subject to Chinese law not United States law.

One known former United States employee is Sandra Itkoff, a former vice-president of the company. Ms. Itkoff, a business development professional focusing on developing green technologies, had brokered the original deal to bring BYD to Southern California. She is currently involved in litigation with the company alleging discrimination and wrongfully discharge. The company has stated Ms. Itkoff was discharged for physically attacking a co-worker.

BYD, per the company’s marketing, stands for Build Your Dream.

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Tony Simon

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