Rail-car plants get PLA, then Union Labor

Published: May 23, 2016

Last updated on May 26th, 2016

rail carSMART is part of Jobs to Move America (JMA), a coalition of six international unions and more than 40 major community groups. JMA works with officials, agencies, and businesses to make sure that the nation’s more than $5.7 billion in annual transportation manufacturing work is built union—and in America. And that includes building the facilities, too.

For the nation, that $5.7 billion goes to upgrading America’s transit network with clean, efficient trains and buses. For workers, JMA can help communities to harness those huge taxpayer dollars to create good jobs.

SMART members will get those jobs just through the eventual manufacturing work but also through Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on related construction work for new or expanding facilities.

Jobs to Move America is working to make sure all of this well-funded, ongoing work is done right here in America by fairly treated and decently paid union workers.

History reborn: Rail cars will be built in Chicago

More than a century ago, rail cars represented an industry where sheet metal and transportation workers had close ties across a single industry: making, repairing, and operating rail stock for a growing America. Now SMART members will work on—and in—Chicago’s first new rail-car assembly plant in 35 years.

City officials and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) awarded a contract for the largest rail car order in CTA history—846 7000-series cars to be built by CSR Sifang America. CSR’s winning bid pledged to build a brand-new rail car assembly facility in Chicago, representing an investment of $40 million and expected to open with 170 jobs:

• SMART sheet metal workers and other trades will build the new plant under a PLA.

• Rail cars will be produced by SMART members and those of the IBEW.

“With this agreement, CTA riders will get state-of-the-art rail cars and Chicago returns to our roots as the place where the next generation of rail cars are built [and operated], providing good jobs for our residents. That is a classic win-win for Chicago,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Praise for JMA, agencies and collaborative efforts

“This historic agreement was the result of strong collaboration between the City, our federal partners, the Chicago Federation of Labor, and Jobs to Move America (JMA),” Emanuel continued. “I cannot thank them enough for their partnership in making it possible.”

This model approach centers on a “U.S. Employment” provision: bidders had to provide the number and type of new jobs they planned to create related to the production of the new rail cars, as well as an outline of their job recruitment and workforce training strategies.

Union and community officials nationwide are understandably optimistic about the JMA model, which leverages requirements for U.S. employment and union-level wages to create good jobs.

“This is the result that comes from when we work together, not only within the union but with elected officials and the entire labor movement,” said Rocco Terranova, SM Local 73 Business Manager and SMART’s Eighth General Vice President.

“With our with our Brothers and Sisters in the SMART Transportation Division we will bring back good, high paying jobs home and make sure our members lead the way in operating the next generation of transit here in Chicago and across the country.”