Coalition Urges Good Local Jobs in Metro Heavy Railcar Contract

Jobs to Move America organizer Diego Janacua speaks at this morning's rally. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Jobs to Move America organizer Diego Janacua speaks at this morning’s rally. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At a press event in front of Metro headquarters this morning, the Jobs to Move America (JMA) coalition called for companies to create good jobs as they manufacture Metro railcars. Today is the deadline to file income taxes, so the coalition emphasized the need for companies to be responsive to U.S. taxpayers who are footing the bill for these transportation manufacturing contracts.

Shawn Stewart of the L.A. Black Workers Center speaks at this morning's Jobs to Move America event.
Shawn Stewart of the L.A. Black Workers Center speaks at this morning’s Jobs to Move America event.

The national JMA coalition represents a broad range of organizations, including labor, civil rights, environmentalists, and others. Speakers at today’s event included representatives from the AFL-CIO, the L.A. Black Workers Center, Move L.A., Occidental College, and the Southern California Association of Governments.

The rally opened and closed with rousing chants of, “What do we want? Good Jobs! When do we want them? Now!” and “¡Sí se puede!”

Speakers emphasized the need for transportation investments to serve more than one purpose: expanding mobility and also creating quality jobs, especially for disadvantaged workers, including lower-income veterans, women, communities of color, and the formerly incarcerated. Speakers stressed that the generation of quality jobs would create a win-win situation for the contractor and the community.

Metro is in the middle of a $1 billion procurement process to build nearly 300 heavy railcars that will serve the existing Red Line and the expanding Purple Line subways. According to the coalition’s press release, “Metro is one of the first transit agencies whose Request for Proposals included innovative language developed by Jobs to Move America, called the U.S. Employment Plan, that incentivizes companies proposing to build taxpayer-funded transit vehicles to create U.S. jobs.”

Metro railcar bid proposals were due in January. According to one coalition spokesperson, at least two companies, China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation and Hyundai Rotem, are known to have already submitted bids. While local or even domestic manufacturing is not strictly required for the contract, Metro’s selection may take into account bidders’ job creation pledges.

Coalition speakers touted the past job creation successes from Metro’s light railcar procurement with Kinkisharyo. Though it has been the subject of some controversy, Kinkisharyo is currently building light railcars in its Palmdale factory. According to the coalition, the Kinkisharyo contract has resulted in “235 jobs for people facing barriers to employment.” Similar arrangements are in effect for the Chicago Transit Agency, where there is a “Build Chicago” partnership, and Amtrak, though their low demand and high crash standards have delayed domestic train production.

The Metro Board is expected to select its contractor and approve its heavy railcar manufacturing contract in June.

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