LOS ANGELES — Jobs to Move America’s coalition in California announced the renewal of their community benefits agreement with electric bus manufacturer BYD, reaffirming the manufacturer’s commitment to creating pathways into good manufacturing jobs for underrepresented and underserved populations in Los Angeles County.
In 2017, BYD Motors became the first electric bus manufacturer to enter into an agreement when the company signed an agreement with Jobs to Move America’s coalition and SMART Local 105 covering the manufacturer’s Lancaster plant. The agreement is a legally enforceable agreement that committed BYD to making deep investments in pre-apprenticeship and training programs and set out a goal of recruiting and hiring 405 of its workforce from populations facing significant barriers to employment, including people of color, veterans, and returning citizens. The agreement also included a commitment from BYD to work with the coalition to provide other support for workers, such as providing transportation for those without access to a car.
“Through our CBA, we are reaching out to people who have a hard time getting a job,” said Steve McCauley, who works as a material specialist at BYD. “This gives people a chance to move forward, giving them self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.
“People have turned themselves around here,” McCauley said of second-chance citizens hired by BYD. “We’re seeing people move up. It’s a beautiful thing, and we can really thank the CBA.”
The Lancaster plant employs over 400 union workers. Since 2017, BYD has surpassed its 40% commitment. As a result of the targeted hiring program, workers of color comprise 90% of BYD’s workforce, with African-American workers representing 30% of the total workforce. In comparison, workers of color make up just 32.6% of the national transportation equipment manufacturing workforce, with African-American representation at just 14.1%.
“Over the past three years, BYD has created hundreds of local jobs, and worked with community and labor partners to tackle barriers to employment, such as language access and transportation so all workers have an equal shot at a good manufacturing career,” said Melanie Jamileh Prasad, Jobs to Move America’s California director. “In this time of staggering unemployment, it has become very easy for companies to try to justify reneging on their commitments to workers and communities. We commend BYD for instead standing with workers and the Lancaster community and renewing the company’s commitment to creating pathways to high-quality jobs for people facing barriers to employment.”
Jobs to Move America, SMART, and BYD were set to launch a 13-week pre-hire program for job seekers earlier this year, until COVID caused the kickoff to be delayed. This program will complement the 18-month Industrial Manufacturing Technician apprenticeship program, SMART, BYD, and Antelope Valley College launched in 2019.
“We are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished for our members over the past three years with BYD and JMA, including the creation of the new state-certified BYD/SMART Apprenticeship Program,” said Luther Medina, president/business manager of SMART Local 105. “While workers everywhere are suffering from opportunistic, low-road employers using this economic crisis to lower wages and benefits, we know that our members have the security of high-quality jobs at BYD. As we look towards economic recovery, we must lift up employers who took the high road and instead used this time to invest in the health and wellbeing of our communities.”