In Chicago, New Trains and Job Growth


August 1, 2014


Chicago’s commuter railway is the third busiest rail mass transit system in the US.
Photo used with permission from Flickr userRene Schweitzke

The 400 members of Chicago Local 134 who maintain the city’s bustling railways are looking forward to some major changes in the next few years.


Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently announced the launch of “Build Chicago,” a partnership between the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Chicago Federation of Labor that will collaborate on the purchase of over 900 modernized rail cars and create thousands of manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

Local 134 played a key role in the CTA’s review of the competitive job-creating proposals from manufacturing companies on the project, by arranging a meeting between President Edwin D. Hill and Emanuel in June that Local 134 Business Manager Terry Allen said was “pivotal.”

“President Hill told the mayor what he would like to see in the RFP [Request for Proposal], and the mayor agreed,” Allen said.   

As a result, all bids submitted by manufacturing companies must stipulate the number and type of jobs they will create, as well as their recruitment methods and quality of training, all of which will factor heavily in the CTA’s decision.

“By including incentives for U.S. job creation and workforce development in its procurement, the CTA is using its purchasing power for community benefit,” Hill said. “IBEW applauds Mayor Emanuel and the CTA for using the power of this $2 billion purse to spur job creation and opportunities for working families.”

The 725,000 people who ride Chicago’s railways on any given weekday will enjoy faster, more comfortable commutes when the new fleet replaces rail cars that have been operating for as long as 25 years. The rail cars will be manufactured over the next eight years in several large groups, starting with 200 cars by 2018.

 “Soup to nuts, everything will be made in America,” said Don Finn, Local 134 recording secretary.

Members of Local 134 serve as the railway system’s yardmasters, controllers and roadmasters, responsible for maintaining the safety and reliability of the rails by performing inspections, making repairs, and planning transit schedules accordingly. Their primary challenge in the coming years will be integrating the new rail cars with the older models as smoothly as possible.

Allen said the local hopes that the CTA’s commitment to job creation will motivate companies across the nation to do the same.

“When you look at what was done, it’s going to help with the effort not only here but throughout the country – saying we need to keep jobs in America,” Allen said. “Let’s reward companies for doing the right things: creating good jobs with living wages, recruiting and training women and minorities, and making workplaces safe.”

For more information about keeping transit jobs in America, click here.