It’s the nation’s largest public works program--$36 billion to improve rail and transportation infrastructure in Los Angeles. Who will build 78 new light rail cars and 97 more in the future?

More than 78 rail cars for the L.A. Metro will be manufactured locally by Kinkisharyo International LLC after an agreement between L.A. Local 11, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Jobs to Move America coalition.

That was the question that confronted Los Angeles Local 11 and the Jobs to Move America coalition as Kinkisharyo International, LLC, a Japanese-owned manufacturer, was awarded a contract to produce rail cars in 2012. The original contract and the option to build more cars would total $890 million.

As a result of a November agreement between L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, the city’s metropolitan transit authority, Kinkisharyo, labor and community groups, the manufacturer now promises rail cars will be produced in nearby Palmdale.

The agreement follows a two-year struggle waged by Local 11 and others calling upon Kinkisharyo to stay neutral in any IBEW organizing campaign waged by 250 workers at the plant, located in hangar space the company leases from Los Angeles World Airport. In addition to the labor issues, Kinkisharyo faced opposition on the environmental impact of plans to build a new manufacturing facility.

Kinkisharyo had threatened to move the facility out of L.A. if the union and its allies prevailed.

“This agreement means that L.A. County rail cars, paid for with L.A. County tax dollars will be built in L.A. County, boosting our economy and expanding our manufacturing base with hundreds of good-paying, middle-class jobs,” said Local 11 Business Manager Marvin Kropke. 

L.A. Local 11 Business Manager Marvin Kropke (left) celebrates signing of Kinkisharyo agreement with Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary treasurer of the L.A. Labor Federation (center) and Madeline Janis, director of the Jobs to Move America coalition.

Kropke thanked Kinkisharyo for its “commitment to a strong partnership” and Mayor Garcetti for his “great leadership, as well as his able staff, on this important issue.” Environmental issues raised during the conflict are now considered moot. No new plant will be built. Instead, the existing plant will be expanded.

As part of the agreement, the parties agree to explore ways to expand opportunities for disadvantaged L.A. County workers, including military veterans, women and people of color through programs such as job readiness training.

“Because we brought both sides back to the table to ground out night and day negotiations with my office, L.A. is going to see new middle class jobs and an expansion of our manufacturing base,” Mayor Garcetti said in a press statement.

Local media outlets widely covered the conflict over Kinkisharyo’s commitment to labor rights. But the media paid scant attention to the wider implications of the final agreement for municipalities across the U.S.

The L.A. agreement marks the first successful implementation of the U.S. Employment Plan, produced by experts working with the Jobs to Move America coalition, which is supported by the AFL-CIO and organizations including the Sierra Club and the National Urban League.

The U.S. Employment Plan encourages high standards for economic development outcomes of multi-million-dollar transportation manufacturing contracts through three types of policy tools:

  • Disclosure: requiring manufacturing companies to disclose the number and quality of American jobs on a contract.

  • Evaluation: Helping transit agencies evaluate competing proposals from manufacturing companies for creating good American jobs, advancing workforce development and investing in factories in the U.S.

  • Implementation: Contractually obligating companies to implement their American jobs plans, allowing community groups to work with the companies and hold them accountable for their good jobs commitments.

“Local 11 and the Jobs to Move America coalition are to be congratulated, not just for their relentless activism in holding corporate recipients of taxpayer money accountable to the communities where their products are deployed, but for working to establish a partnership model that will enable more working Americans to achieve their hopes and dreams,” says International President Edwin D. Hill.