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中国工厂在美国遇到EHS挑战 Culture Clash at a Chinese-Owned Plant in Ohio

有773人浏览 日期:2017-06-14放大字体  缩小字体

 
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数据显示,从2000年至今年第一季度,中国在美国投资了近1200亿美元。但是爆炸式的投资也带来了出人意料的麻烦。在福耀的车间里,已经出现了很大的文化冲突。Fuyao’s plant sits on what was once the site of an abandoned General Motors facility in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio. Credit Nathan C. Ward for The New York Times

MORAINE, Ohio — When a giant Chinese glassmaker arrived here in 2014 and began spending what would become more than a half-billion dollars to fix up an abandoned General Motors plant, it seemed like a tale from opposite land: The Chinese are supposedly stealing American jobs — as no less an authority than President Trump has pointed out.

But now the Chinese were suddenly creating them. More than 1,500 jobs, in fact.

俄亥俄州莫雷恩——中国的一家大型玻璃制造商在2014年来到这里,开始花费最终逾5亿美元的资金,对一座废弃的通用汽车厂进行整修,这件事情似乎有悖常情:按照特朗普总统那种权威的说法,中国人是在偷走美国的工作岗位。

但现在中国人突然一下子创造了工作岗位。事实上,创造了1500多个工作岗位。
 

这家名叫福耀集团的中国企业认为,在代顿(Dayton)郊区花这笔钱是值得的,因为这里靠近它的主要客户,美国大型汽车制造商每年都会购买数以百万计的挡风玻璃。

而且这还不是孤例。

据荣鼎咨询(Rhodium Group)的数据,从2000年至今年第一季度,中国在美国投资了近1200亿美元;这家咨询公司一直在追踪该趋势。其中将近一半的投资是从2016年初开始的,中国因此在那段时间成为了美国最大的外国直接投资来源之一。

但是爆炸式的投资也带来了出人意料的麻烦。在福耀的车间里,已经出现了很大的文化冲突,一些工人质疑该公司是否真地想按照美式监督和美国标准来经营。

福耀正面临着全美汽车工人联合会(United Automobile Workers)发起的激烈工会运动,以及一名前经理提起的诉讼,他说自己因为不是中国人而走人。

这项投资甚至在中国国内也引发了抨击,该公司董事长曹德旺是一个白手起家的亿万富翁,他的一些言论引发了人们对中国竞争力的争论。“曹德旺汉奸行径,”中文微博网站的一个用户写道。“跑去美国办厂,解决美国人就业。”

当然,解决就业是特朗普上任时的承诺。自他胜选以来,像拜耳(Bayer)、软银(SoftBank)和印孚瑟斯(Infosys)这样的外国公司已经宣布了要在美国创造数以千计的工作岗位的计划,此举既贴近特朗普的目标,又能避免“美国优先”的反弹。但是,福耀工厂的情况则揭示了在这个过程中的一个潜在陷阱。

工会从2015年开始与工人会面,今年4月,他们加大了公开活动的力度,举办了一个群情激昂的会议,强调该工厂在规则的执行上相当随意,直言不讳者遭到报复。

一名名叫丽莎·康诺利(Lisa Connolly)的员工抱怨说,如果没有足够早地提前申请带薪假,福耀就会以旷工为由对工人进行纪律处分。一个名叫詹姆斯·马丁(James Martin)的前雇员表示,公司让他暴露在刺鼻的化学物质中,令他的双臂起疱,肺活量变小(马丁今年1月在补休期间丢了工作,理由是旷工记录太多)。

俄亥俄州众议院民主党的少数派领袖弗雷德·斯特拉霍恩(Fred Strahorn)告诉听众,福耀的做法感觉“有点像是被挟持”,他承诺“要向福耀表示,在俄亥俄州代顿,我们做事情的方式有点不一样”。

去年11月,联邦职业安全与卫生署(Occupational Safety and Health Administration,简称OSHA)对福耀的一些违规行为处以了逾22.5万美元的罚款,比如没有足够好的锁定机制,以在工人修理或保养设备时,关闭机器电源。在今年1月份之前担任OSHA负责人的乔治华盛顿大学教授戴维·迈克尔斯(David Michaels)表示,这种失误在竞争激烈的汽车零部件行业中很常见,它很容易导致断肢甚至死亡事故。

该公司在3月份达成协议,将罚款金额减至10万美元,并采取纠正措施。

人力资源副总裁埃里克·瓦内蒂(Eric Vanetti)承认,去年年底,工厂的确出现过动荡因素。不过,他表示,在过去数月里,工厂的气氛已极大改善,在同职业安全与健康管理局和解前,工厂就采取了很多新的安全措施。前不久,该公司还将生产员工的时薪提高了两美元。

福耀面临的一个复杂之处是中国在美国的“绿野”投资属于比较新鲜的情况,这种投资是指外国公司在那里修建新的设施,而不是收购已有的设施。

这种方式对双方都有好处。“如果我不在代顿地区投资,很可能没人会在美国的汽车玻璃行业投资,”曹德旺说。

俄亥俄州私人经济开发公司JobsOhio的高管克丽丝蒂·坦纳(Kristi Tanner)帮助把福耀吸引到了该州。她在一项声明中表示,该公司“改造了前通用汽车公司(GM)的一个长期闲置的装配厂,促进了经济提升”。

但是,如果投资者不了解美国的监管和政治环境——很多中国高管都是这样,因为中国的劳动标准往往执行得没那么严格——那么这些项目可能会受到影响。

2014年,一个名叫金龙的中国铜管制造公司在阿拉巴马州威尔科克斯县开了一个工厂。它像福耀一样受到了热烈欢迎,因为它投资了1亿多美元,有望为当地创造300个工作机会。到该年年底,工人们抱怨安全措施松懈,工资低,以微弱多数同意组织工会。

福耀的工人们表示,安全措施有所改善,不过也有人指出,有些问题依然存在。员工德安娜·威尔森(DeAnn Wilson)抱怨称,尽管她在排放烟雾的机器周围工作,但她所在的区域没有适当的通风设备(福耀的健康和安全主管约翰·克兰[John Crane]表示,那些烟雾是热空气进入寒冷房间产生的蒸汽)。

还有些工人表示,尽管该公司坚称,它想把工厂交给美国经理人管理,但是近几个月,它增加了中国管理者的比例。

这种观点与戴维·伯罗斯(David Burrows)的法律诉讼相一致。去年11月,伯罗斯被解除了工厂副总裁的职位。一同被免职的还有工厂总裁约翰·高蒂尔(John Gauthier)。

“他们两个被解雇后,这里的中国色彩更浓厚了,”工厂工人杜安·扬(Duane Young)说。他说,中国人对培训美国员工、与美国员工分担责任甚至打交道几乎没有兴趣。

曹德旺在北京接受采访时表示,他解雇伯罗斯和高蒂尔是因为“他们不尽职,浪费我的钱”。他叹息称,该工厂的生产力“没有我们在中国的工厂高”,还说“有些工人是在消磨时间”。

福耀玻璃厂美国分公司的首席法务官雅典娜·侯(Athena Hou)表示,伯罗斯的诉讼“毫无法律根据”。高蒂尔和伯罗斯没有回应置评请求。

从一定程度上讲,文化规范可以解释这些矛盾。

密歇根大学(University of Michigan)的利伯索尔-罗杰尔中国研究中心(Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies)主任玛丽·加拉格尔(Mary Gallagher)表示,曹德旺这样的企业家通常会雇佣农民工在自己的工厂里工作,他们认为那些人比较顺从,与美国工人不同,后者期望更友好平等的管理风格。“他之前很可能从未经受过来自劳方的这种压力,”她说。

福耀工厂的工人表示,中国的经理似乎把提高产量看得比其他任何东西都更重要。福耀的工人尼古拉斯·坦嫩鲍姆(Nicholas Tannenbaum)表示,当员工认为设备有问题,要求关闭时,“那个中国人看了看我们,说,‘没有必要。’”5月底,坦嫩鲍姆被解雇了。

“生产线还在运行,他们就跳上移动的传送带,去修理它,”他还说。

人力资源总监瓦内蒂表示,该公司并没有为了实现生产目标而牺牲安全。但他承认,“中国人和美国人之间的根本区别在于,中国人偏重速度,美国人喜欢分析事情,从各个角度把它想清楚。”

瓦内蒂表示,福耀依然坚持原来的计划,打算在四五年内把工厂交给一个以美国管理人员为主的团队打理。前不久,它又雇用了两名美国副总裁。

不过,加州大学圣迭戈分校(University of California, San Diego)的政治经济学教授史为夷表示,中国在非洲和亚洲的海外投资都表现出不愿把业务交给当地人管理的模式。

“在管理层,你可以看到技术人员大多来自中国,”她说,“他们聘请担任高级管理职位的当地员工一般是人力资源总监。”

 

The Chinese company, Fuyao Glass Industry Group, decided the money was worth spending in this Dayton suburb to be close to its key customers, the big American-based automakers that buy millions of windshields each year.

And it was not alone.

From 2000 to the first quarter of this year, the Chinese have invested almost $120 billion in the United States, according to the Rhodium Group, which tracks these flows. Nearly half of that amount has come since early 2016, making China one of this country’s largest sources of foreign direct investment during that time.

But with the explosion of investment has come unexpected trouble. At Fuyao, a major culture clash is playing out on the factory floor, with some workers questioning the company’s commitment to operating under American supervision and American norms.


Fuyao faces an acrimonious union campaign by the United Automobile Workers and a lawsuit by a former manager who says he was let go in part because he is not Chinese.

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The company has hired more than 1,500 American workers. Credit Nathan C. Ward for The New York Times

The investment has even prompted hand-wringing in China, where comments by the company’s chairman, a self-made billionaire named Cao Dewang, stirred a debate over the country’s competitiveness. “Cao Dewang behaved like a traitor,” wrote one person on Weibo, the popular Chinese microblogging site. “You set up a factory in the U.S. to solve employment there.”

Solving employment is, of course, the promise that Mr. Trump rode to office. Since his victory, foreign companies like Bayer, SoftBank and Infosys have moved to align themselves with that goal — and avoid an America-first backlash — by promoting plans for thousands of United States-based jobs. But the experience of the Fuyao plant shows the potential pitfalls along the way.


The union, which began meeting with workers in 2015, escalated its public efforts in April with a fiery meeting highlighting arbitrarily enforced rules and retaliation against those who speak up.

An employee named Lisa Connolly complained that Fuyao disciplined workers for absences if they didn’t request their paid time off far enough in advance, while a former employee named James Martin said the company had exposed him to harsh chemicals that blistered his arms and diminished his lung capacity. (Mr. Martin lost his job for excessive absences while on workers’ compensation leave in January.)

James Martin said he was exposed to harsh chemicals at Fuyao and missed work. He later lost his job. Credit Nathan C. Ward for The New York Times

Fred Strahorn, the Democratic minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives, told the audience that Fuyao’s operation felt like “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. Such lapses are common in the brutally competitive auto parts industry, said David Michaels, a professor at George Washington University who headed OSHA until January, but they can easily lead to amputation or even death.

The company reached an agreement in March that reduced the amount to $100,000 and required corrective measures.

Eric Vanetti, the vice president for human resources, conceded an element of turmoil at the plant late last year. But he said that the atmosphere had improved significantly in the past few months and that many of the new safety measures were underway before the OSHA settlement. The company also recently gave hourly production employees a $2-an-hour raise.

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined the company for safety lapses. Credit Nathan C. Ward for The New York Times
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At Fuyao, workers say that there have been some improvements, but they complain that the proportion of Chinese supervisors has increased. Credit Nathan C. Ward for The New York Times

One complication at Fuyao is the relative novelty of Chinese “greenfield” investments in the United States, in which foreign companies build new facilities rather than acquire existing ones.

The approach has advantages for both sides. “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.,” Mr. Cao said.


Kristi Tanner, a senior official at JobsOhio, the private economic development corporation for Ohio, which helped lure Fuyao to the state, said in a statement that the company “has transformed a long-vacant former G.M. assembly plant and provided an economic lift.”

But projects can suffer when investors are unfamiliar with the American regulatory and political environment, as is true for many executives in China, where labor standards tend to be less strictly enforced.

In 2014, a Chinese copper tube maker called Golden Dragon opened a plant in Wilcox County, Ala., to Fuyao-esque fanfare, investing more than $100 million to create an anticipated 300 local jobs. By the end of the year, amid complaints about lax safety and low wages, workers narrowly voted to unionize.

At Fuyao, workers say there have been safety improvements, though some cite continuing problems. One employee, DeAnn Wilson, complained that her area lacks proper ventilation even though she works around machines that emit smoke. (John Crane, Fuyao’s health and safety director, said the smoke was vapor that resulted from warm air entering a chilled room.)

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DeAnn Wilson complained of poor ventilation. Credit Nathan C. Ward for The New York Times

Other workers said that despite the company’s insistence that it wanted to hand the plant over to American managers, it had increased the proportion of Chinese supervisors in recent months.

That contention is consistent with the legal complaint of David Burrows, who was ousted as a vice president for the plant in November, along with the plant’s president, John Gauthier.

“Since those two have been fired, it has more of a Chinese feel than what it was before,” said Duane Young, a worker at the plant. He said the Chinese had little interest in training, sharing responsibility with or even engaging with American employees.

In an interview in Beijing, Mr. Cao said he had replaced Mr. Burrows and Mr. Gauthier because “they didn’t do their jobs but squandered my money.” He lamented that productivity at the plant “is not as high as we have in China,” adding that “some of the workers are just idling around.”

Athena Hou, the chief legal officer for Fuyao Glass America, called Mr. Burrows’s suit “legally meritless.” Mr. Gauthier and Mr. Burrows did not respond to requests for comment.

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To some extent, cultural norms may explain the tensions.

Mary Gallagher, who directs the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan, said entrepreneurs like Mr. Cao often populate their factories with migrants from rural areas, whom they expect to be relatively submissive, unlike American workers, who expect a more collegial management style. “He hasn’t ever had probably this type of pressure from a work force,” she said.

Workers at the Fuyao plant say Chinese managers seem to elevate production goals above all else. When employees have trouble with equipment and ask to shut it down, said Nicholas Tannenbaum, a Fuyao worker who was fired in late May, “the Chinese look at us and say, ‘No need.’”

“They’re jumping on moving conveyors to fix it as the line is running,” he added.

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Fuyao says it will keep to its original four-to-five-year timetable for handing the plant to a predominantly American management corps. Credit Nathan C. Ward for The New York Times

Mr. Vanetti, the head of human resources, said the company had not sacrificed safety to meet production targets. But he conceded that “the fundamental difference between Chinese and Americans is that the Chinese have a bias toward speed; Americans like to process things, think it through from all angles.”

Mr. Vanetti said that Fuyao remained committed to its original four-to-five-year timetable for handing the plant to a predominantly American management corps, and that it recently hired two more American vice presidents.

But Weiyi Shi, a professor of political economy at the University of California, San Diego, said Chinese overseas investments in Africa and Asia showed a pattern of reluctance to transfer operations to local control.

“At the managerial level, you see that the technical staff tends to be from China,” she said. “The one local employee they hire at a senior managerial level would be the human resources director.”

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