By Jon Hilkevitch
7:49 PM CDT, June 17, 2013
Chicago labor and community groups on Monday called on the Chicago Transit Authority to require bidders on future rail car manufacturing contracts to submit detailed plans for creating local jobs.
In a letter to CTA president Forrest Claypool, leaders of nine groups complained that work forces in the Chicago area and statewide have not participated in the ongoing manufacture of more than 700 rail cars by Montreal-based Bombardier Transportation, which was awarded a $1.14 billion CTA contract.
The groups said the exclusion cost the region and Illinois thousands of jobs.
They asked the CTA to change its current solicitation to potential bidders on the next procurement of rail cars, slated to be built over the next 10 years, to require them to disclose, before any contract award, where and how many jobs would be created by the manufacture of the equipment.
“This American Jobs Plan disclosure requirement should include information about the quantity, proposed wages and benefits, location, investment in work force training and plans for recruitment of disadvantaged workers related to the proposed manufacture of the vehicles,’’ said the letter, signed by officials of the Chicago Federation of Labor, Chicago Jobs with Justice, Citizen Action/Illinois, Gamaliel of Metro Chicago and other labor, business and faith-based groups.
CTA officials responded by saying they have had “numerous discussions’’ with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which promotes the concept of public agencies asking bidders on projects to disclose where and how many jobs will be created.
“We share the goal of promoting American and local job opportunities. We pledge to continue to work with labor and federal officials to find common ground on this issue,’’ said CTA spokesman Brian Steele.
The Bombardier 5000 Series rail cars currently being made for the CTA are assembled in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and some of the major components are made in Mexico and overseas. For months last year the supplies included defective wheel parts from a foundry in China that Bombardier fired after the Tribune disclosed the problem.
CTA officials in February solicited design proposals from rail car manufacturers to build a next-generation car to be called the 7000 Series.Ö The contract for up to 846 cars is projected at about $2 billion.
“We believe that, with continued high levels of unemployment and poverty in Illinois and the U.S., such a large expenditure of taxpayer funds must be seen as an opportunity to create a win-win for Chicago, Illinois and the country,’’ the letter said.
The request goes beyond the federal Buy America requirements that the cost of components produced in the U.S. is more than 60 percent of the total equipment costs.
The backers of the American Jobs Plan said the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the L.A. Metro system, included the plan’s provisions in its contract award this year for 550 buses and in 2011 for up to 235 light rail cars.
CTA officials said Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Claypool have made local contracting and job opportunities a top priority. They cited the Red Line South reconstruction project, which has created jobs for Chicagoans and for which more than $100 million in construction contracts have gone to Illinois companies, many of which are based in the Chicago area.
In addition, a recent purchase of new CTA buses included seats that are manufactured by a West Side company, transit officials said.
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