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Chicago’s Game-Changing American Jobs Plan

By Ed Wytkind

Over the past decade, U.S. transit agencies have spent an estimated $50 billion in taxpayer money to buy railcars and buses – a huge investment that should have produced tens of thousands of good American manufacturing jobs. But few of those jobs ever materialized, simply because manufacturing companies have been awarded contracts with minimal consideration of whether they would create jobs at home or abroad.

At a time when our nation is desperate for middle-class jobs and American manufacturing is still in decline, we can’t afford to pay companies to generate jobs overseas. That is why last week’s decision by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to include a landmark U.S. Employment Plan in its $2 billion procurement of railcars is an enormous achievement for the American economy and its workers.

CTA’s announcement is nothing less than a game-changer for how American transit agencies – and potentially other government entities – use their tremendous buying power to help rebuild our middle class and along the way revitalize U.S. transportation manufacturing. Under the CTA’s new solicitation for bids, manufacturing companies will have to disclose plans to create American jobs and opportunities for disadvantaged American workers. Crucially, their bids will be evaluated in part based on the quality of those plans. In other words, companies that pledge to build factories and generate jobs in this country will have a competitive advantage over those that refuse to, an edge that will be further sharpened if their plans include strategies to employ women, veterans and residents of low-income neighborhoods.

Chicago’s innovative new approach to linking transit purchases to job creation is part of an exciting national effort launched by the Jobs to Move America Coalition, which is pushing transit agencies across the country to adopt the U.S. Employment Plan as a key part of their bidding process. The CTA’s decision comes on the heels of Amtrak’s July Request for Proposal, which also includes a robust U.S. Employment Plan as a critical part of the bidding process. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority has taken similar action, and other agencies are expected to follow suit in the coming months. Clearly, the momentum is building in the right direction.

As a member of the Steering Committee, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO is an enthusiastic supporter of Jobs to Move America. TTD’s unions understand better than most that transit investment can be a huge driver of job creation and economic prosperity. We are proud to be working with a coalition of more than 40 community, labor, civil rights, philanthropic, academic and environmental organizations on a visionary plan to strengthen our transit infrastructure while bringing good manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

The CTA’s announcement could lead to as many as 20,000 high-quality U.S. jobs. If other large transit agencies adopt the U.S. Employment Plan, the result could be tens of thousands more good jobs, for those who need them the most.

That’s moving America forward in a big way.

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