Despite Calls for Boycott, LA and Long Beach Continue Relationship with Troubled BYD

Several labor and social justice organizations—thirteen to be exact—called on the three public agencies engaged with bus manufacturer BYD Motors to boycott their engagement while protesting in front of BYD’s office in Downtown LA. However, despite all the shouting, chanting, and finger-pointing, all three agencies—LA Metro, Long Beach Transit (LBT), and the City of Los Angeles—are not making any moves that indicate they will abandon the troubled bus manufacturer.

BYD faces multiple issues since garnering two of the nation’s largest electric bus contracts—one with Metro and the other with LBT—including the recent admission at a LBT board meeting that seven of the nine subassemblies for the new fleet were not approved for use. This came just two weeks after welding issues were discovered in the frames and bracket installation and just two months after cracks were discovered near the rear of the BYD bus undergoing Altoona testing. They were also provided $1.2M by the City of Los Angeles to help build their offices off of Figueroa, where the protest was held.

“How can we have our citizens on these buses?” asked Antonio Sanchez, a local worker. “How can we trust them to build safe buses when they break the law? I’m not going to let any of my fellow workers ride an unsafe bus.”

Most recently, two major national stories—one for the New York Times and the other for the Los Angeles Times—has uncovered that the State of California is investigating BYD for labor violations that amount to 112 citations and nearly $20K in back wage violations after it was discovered that BYD had employed Chinese nationals with a $1.50/hr wage.

“They have been cited by the State of California so extensively that we know [these labor violations are] actually happening,” said Madeline Janis, National Policy Director of Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). “We call on these three public agencies [LBT, LA Metro, and the City of Los Angeles] to sever or at least reconsider their ties.”

However, these groups are going to have to do more than protest, as LA Metro was quite succinct in their response:

“We are continuing with the Board-approved zero-emission bus program,” said Dave Sotero of Metro.

Dana Pynn of LBT, though not entirely dismissive of severing ties, clarified the transit authority’s ethical stance but provided no clear answers in regard to boycotting BYD.

“Long Beach Transit does not condone any violation of state or federal law,” Pynn said, “and we will be following the ongoing investigation closely. We are reviewing our contract with BYD in light of the allegations.”

Mayor Garcetti’s office remained, per usual, entirely mum on the subject.

If the spirit of the protest can maintain its passion, it would be difficult for LA Metro or LBT to blindly ignore some of their calls—in the least that much more oversight needs to be harvested in and around BYD’s operations.

“How can we have our citizens on these buses?” asked Antonio Sanchez, a local worker. “How can we trust them to build safe buses when they break the law? I’m not going to let any of my fellow workers ride an unsafe bus.”

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[This post originally appeared on Streetsblog Los Angeles]

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food to politics to urban transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 12 nominations and an additional win for Best Political Commentary. Born in Big Bear, he has lived in Long Beach since college. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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