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By Sean Gorman October 12, 2011

Houck says Reeves "OK" with shipping Va. jobs to China

Democratic State Sen. Edd Houck, D-Spotsylvania, is airing a cable television ad charging that his Republican opponent, Bryce Reeves, "is OK" with sending Virginia jobs overseas.

"Bryce Reeves chaired a group bankrolled by a New York billionaire who fired hundreds of Virginia workers and sent their jobs to China," the ad’s narrator says.

We wondered if it’s true Reeves is linked to a company that sent hundreds of Virginia jobs to China.

We started by tracing the Houck campaign’s circuitous route in linking Reeves to the job losses.

Reeves in 2009 chaired the Fredericksburg regional chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative organization advocating less spending, taxes and government. It was a volunteer position Reeves held for a few months, according to Chris Leavitt, Reeves’ campaign manager.

Americans for Prosperity was co-founded and gets money from David Koch, a New York billionaire who co-owns Koch Industries. The New Yorker and other publications have reported that Koch and his brother, Charles, have helped finance the rise of the Tea Party in recent years.

Koch Industries, based in Wichita, Kansas, owns Invista, a global manufacturer of nylon, spandex and polyester products. In December 2008, Invista, announced plans to lay off 210 employees who made nylon fibers for carpets at a plant in Waynesboro.

A Dec. 11, 2008 story in The News Virginian, Waynesboro’s newspaper, said Invista cited the sluggish housing market and decline in the demand for carpet as reasons for the job cuts. The article said many workers might be shifted to spandex production.

The story said the nylon job losses were in addition to the layoff of another 135 contractors at the plant just a week earlier.

Did those jobs end up being sent to China? To buttress that line of reasoning, Houck’s ad references a December 12, 2008 article in The News Virginian that said while Invista was cutting in Waynesboro, it was expanding operations in China.

"Where there’s smoke, there’s fire," Craig Bieber, Houck’s campaign manager, told us.

The story, however, did not say the Waynesboro jobs specifically went to China.

In an attempt to prove the jobs did go to China, Bieber cited a 2006 Invista news release announcing the company was acquiring Honeywell’s nylon filament business in Asia to make Stainmaster carpets. Bieber told us the jobs losses in Waynesboro fits a pattern of Koch Industries off-shoring jobs.

But Bieber could not provide any direct evidence the Waynesboro jobs were shipped to China. And we couldn’t find any, either.

The Department of Labor allows U.S. workers to petition the federal government for benefits if their jobs have been lost to international trade. We searched that agency’s website for trade assistance cases involving Invista’s Waynesboro facility.

We found a February 2009 Department of Labor decision signing off on trade assistance to Invista employees and contract workers at the plant’s facility whose nylon yarn production work was being shifted to Canada, where the company has three large plants and has been expanding its production of air bags. But we found no decisions saying workers claimed that their jobs were being sent to China.

For insight, we repeatedly tried to reach Jim Flickinger, president of the International Brotherhood of DuPont Workers, the union representing workers at the plant. He didn’t call us back.

Kenneth Henley, the union’s general counsel, declined comment. "We don’t want to get in the middle of it," he said.

Kemp Harr, publisher of Floor Focus Magazine, doubted the Waynesboro jobs went to China. Harr said Invista is faced with a drop in  U.S. demand for nylon carpet -- down 40 percent since 2006.

"The only thing Invista makes in China is for domestic consumption (in that country)," said Harr, whose publication is based in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Invista officials deny that Waynesboro nylon workers’ jobs were sent to China, adding their job loss was due to a "dramatic decline in housing and significantly reduced customer demand for residential carpet."

"No nylon workers’ jobs were moved to China," Erica Taylor, an Invista spokeswoman, told us in an email. "Additionally, even though the ad implies otherwise, our owners are not presently involved in Mr. Reeve’s campaign."

That gets us to our next point.

Houck’s ad uses Reeves’ brief work with a local chapter of Americans For Prosperity chapter to tie him to David Koch, Invista and the company’s 2008 layoffs.

"Reeves is OK with sending our jobs to China," the ad’s narrator states.

It’s a pretty flimsy argument to link Reeves to the Invista layoffs solely because he once headed a regional group of a national organization that received money from David Koch. It’s even more of a stretch to say that link, tenuous as it is, proves Reeves is OK about sending jobs to China.

Leavitt, Reeves’ campaign manager, said the Republican has never commented on the Invista layoffs, adding it was "ridiculous" to suggest he was OK with sending jobs to China.

Our ruling:

Houck’s ad links Reeves to the 2008 exporting of hundreds jobs from a nylon plant in Waynesboro to China. The charge does not stand up.

First, the connection between Reeves and Invista is weak, to say the least. Invista is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, co-owned by billionaire David Koch. Reeves never worked for the company. But Houck says the tie is that Reeves in 2009 chaired the Fredericksburg chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative national organization that Koch co-founded.

Secondly, Houck offers no proof that the jobs went directly to China. There’s some strong evidence to the contrary, however: Invista denies it; an industry expert says it’s improbable; and the union filings with the Department of Labor make no such claim.

Houck uses a flimsy logic to conclude Reeves "is OK" with shipping Virginia jobs to China.

We rate the claim False.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Sen. Edd Houck television advertisement, accessed October 3, 2011.

E-mails from Craig Bieber, Senator Edd Houck’s campaign chariman, October 4, 10, 11.

E-mail from EricaTaylor, Invista spokeswoman, October 5, 2011.

Interview with Lloyd Wood, spokesman for the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, October 11, 2011.

E-mail from Lloyd Wood, October 4, 2011.

Interview with Kenneth Henley, general counsel for the International Brotherhood of Dupont Workers, October 11, 2011.

Interview with Chris Leavitt, campaign manager for state senate candidate Bryce Reeves, October 4, 2011.

Interview with Kemp Harr, publisher of Floor Focus Magazine, October 11, 2011.

Interview with Garren Shipley, spokesman for the Republican Party of Virginia, October 3, 2011.

The News Virginian, "Invista expands in China,"December 12, 2008.

The News Virginian, "Invista plan halts nylon work, 210 jobs cut,"December 11, 2008.

The News Virginian, "All Invista workers notified of layoffs," December 16, 2008.

The News Virginian,"132 laid off at Invista," December 5, 2008.

The News Virginian, "Invista cutting 132 jobs,"December 6, 2008.

The News Virginian, "Waynesboro family found livelihood at fibers plant," December 14, 2008.

The News Virginian, "Invista lays off contractors," September 21, 2008.

The News Virginian, "Grim news shakes workers,"December 11, 2008.

Department of Labor, "TAA decision 64944," Februrary 19, 2009.

E-mail from Joshua Lamont, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor, October 12, 2011.

Interview with Joshua Lamont, Octobert 12, 2011.

Washington Post, "Who is Americans for Prosperity?" August 26, 2010.

August Free Press, "Invista lays off another 300 plus,"December 10, 2008.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Koch group Americans for Prosperity campaigning in Wisconsin," February 28,. 2011.

Wall Street Journal, "Democrats criticize group over attack ads, tax violations,"August 28, 2010.

The New York Times, "Billionaire Brothers’ money plays role in Wisconsin dispute,"February 21, 2011.

The Outsourcing Center, "How outsourcing to China rescued Invista,"August 1, 2006.

Invista website, accessed October 3, 2011.

Invista news release, "Invista to acquire business in Asia Pacific," October 30, 2006.

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