The IBEW has worked successfully with Jobs to Move America to ensure public transportation projects create good paying jobs for working families in the communities they serve. The next success story might be in New York.

The bidding process recently ended on a $3.2 billion project to build more than 1,000 subway cars for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The winning company is expected to be announced in late summer or early fall, Jobs to Move America deputy director Linda Nguyen said. It is part of a five-year, $27 billion plan to improve the aging system.

A series of seven train cars sits in Manhattan during a snow storm.
Photo provided under a Creative Commons agreement by Metropolitan Transit Authority of the State of New York.

Like in three other major cities, the IBEW and Jobs to Move America combined with other labor groups and allies to force positive changes on a lucrative public transportation project. In New York, they convinced MTA officials to include local employment benchmarks developed by Jobs in the request for bids, Third District International Representative Ellen Redmond said.

“This was a huge victory,” Redmond said. “Inclusion of [Jobs’] U.S. Employment Plan in the MTA’s bid will bring many opportunities to our region by creating good-paying, family-supporting jobs with our public dollars.

“At the end of the day, the MTA’s project has the potential to support up to an estimated 654 U.S. manufacturing and an additional 1,382 jobs along the supply chain,” she added. “Additionally, this gives the MTA the opportunity to not only purchase a reliable vehicle on time and on budget, but to also influence a strong economic development program that puts thousands of American women and men back to work. This is definitely a win-win for everyone.”

The plan is not a federal or state law, but if government officials agree to use it, it sets guidelines companies must meet in terms of hiring workers from areas where tax dollars are being spent on a project, including in economically struggling regions.

The New York contract might be the jewel of Jobs to Move America’s work. The city’s subway system is the largest in the world.

“It has the ability to impact and shape company behavior throughout the industry and push standards up,” Nguyen said. “The MTA has been really sort of the big prize. They’re like the 800-pound gorilla in this market.”

CRRC, which is based in China,, is the world’s largest manufacturer of rail cars. It has made a bid and has proposed building a manufacturing facility near Albany, N.Y., that would employ about 200 workers, Nguyen said. The company has a card check and neutrality agreement with the IBEW and the sheet metal workers union at a facility in Springfield, Mass.

“If it’s in New York State, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be union,” Third District Vice President Don Siegel said. “Any contractor that gets this job would know the IBEW and other unions were instrumental in helping them to get this contract. The payoff for us is jobs.”

Based in Los Angeles, Jobs to Move America was founded in 2012 and is a coalition of about 30 labor, spiritual, academic, civil rights and environmental groups, including the IBEW.

It worked with Los Angeles Local 11 to help secure IBEW representation at a Kinkisharyo International plant that is building about 175 cars to upgrade the Los Angeles light rail system. About 400 workers there have IBEW representation.

A New York City subway stop with the 7 Train approaching at night. Jobs to Move America, a coalition that includes the IBEW, is working to ensure that more than 1,000 new cars being built for the system lead to good-paying, union jobs.
Photo provided under a Creative Commons agreement by Metropolitan Transit Authority of the State of New York.

Last year, it helped broker a deal between the Chicago Transit Authority and CSR Sifang America to build about 850 new cars for that city’s subway system. CSR Sifang agreed to construct a new facility in Chicago as part of the contract. Those workers will be represented by the IBEW and the sheet metal workers’ union. Chicago Local 134 has jurisdiction, although the number of workers it will represent remains unclear.

The coalition also helped broker a deal between CRRC and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to build 284 new cars for the Boston subway system. The cars are being built at the Springfield plant, where IBEW members will be represented by Springfield Local 7.

“We don’t want low-paying, low-skilled jobs that have no career ladder,” Nguyen said. “We want investments in career paths. We want investment in apprenticeship programs that create real opportunities and life-changing scenarios for folks.”

Jerry Kurimski, an international representative in the organizing department, said working with coalitions has helped the IBEW gain a foothold in rail car construction, something that American companies aren’t involved in.

“Our relationship has meant more members in an industry that’s rather new to North America,” he said. “All these manufacturers are from other countries. We’re creating jobs for existing members and adding new members in our manufacturing sector.”

Redmond said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support also played a big role in advancing the IBEW’s and Jobs to Move American’s goals.

“Now more than ever, I think the important message is that we must continue to grow as a labor movement,” she said. “Because when we speak to our elected officials, we need to be a collective voice that has power and influence.”

Other prominent New York politicians besides Cuomo took notice.

“Creating good family-supporting jobs and improving our transit system is key to boosting livelihoods in New York,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, the senate minority leader. “I commend the MTA, the Jobs to Move America coalition and others on their important work making this happen.”

MTA workers are represented by Transport Workers Union Local 100, which also is a Jobs to Move America partner. 

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