Written by Amanda Maher
Both Boston and Chicago recently announced that in an effort to simulate local job growth and manufacturing, they will tie “buy local” provisions to their new rail car purchases.
This is the second time Chicago has made an effort to stir interest in rail car manufacturers. This time around, the City has increased the number of cars to be purchased, from 100 to 400, and has opened the bidding to manufacturers around the world. However, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has added a “Buy America” provision, which asks all bidders to provide the number and type of new jobs that they would create in the U.S. during rail car production. Additionally, it asks bidders to spell out how they would recruit for these new positions, and what workforce development efforts they would undertake, if any. This provision was in large part due to the advocacy efforts of the Chicago Federation of Labor, which seeks to grow the number of well-paying, middle-class jobs in Illinois.
“We are hoping that this will be a big victory for low-income families,” said Madeline Janis, director of Jobs to Move America.
In Massachusetts, outgoing Governor Deval Patrick announced that Changchun Railway, the company that won the bid to build new Red and Orange Line MBTA cars will do its work out of a new $55 million plant in Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield continues to struggle with a double-digit unemployment rate (10.3%), nearly twice the Massachusetts state average (5.8%).
“This deal was about getting people to work in Boston and putting people to work in Springfield,” said Richard A. Davey, the outgoing Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
More than 100 construction jobs will be created in building the $60 million factory, and an additional 250 permanent manufacturing jobs. It is anticipated that even after the construction of the 284 new MBTA rail cars is complete, Springfield residents will have access to well-paying manufacturing jobs; the western Massachusetts facility will be Changchun’s North American headquarters.
These nearly simultaneous announcements come just days after a disappointing announcement in Los Angeles, where the “Jobs to Move America” pilot was initially launched. Jobs to Move America, a coalition founded by the Los Angeles Alliance for New Economy (LAANE), won a victory last year when Kinkisharyo International, a company that received almost $1 billion in taxpayer dollars, announced it would build a new railcar manufacturing facility in Palmdale, CA. On October 20, Kinkisharyo announced that it had cancelled these plans after organized labor demanded unionization.
“Kinkisharyo’s contract is clear: it requires at least 194 full-time ‘final assembly’ manufacturing jobs in Los Angeles County. When and how will the company meet its obligation to create these jobs?,” asked Janis, who demanded answers after the company’s announcement. It remains to be seen what remedy LA County pursues in this apparent breach of contract.
While agreements to produce bus and rail cars locally are certainly not foolproof, it is a mechanism for spurring local economic development in many of America’s inner cities—especially those that were once industrial powerhouses and have infrastructure already in place to support manufacturing.
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