New Orleans Jobs to Move America is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that had a fantastic idea that was as simple and straightforward as it was dynamic.
If a public agency is going to offer a contract to purchase something like major public transportation equipment, they should commit at the same time to creating jobs domestically, and even locally, in order to win the award. And, why not? Public dollars creating public goods. The organization got an agreement initially from LA Metro to combine a jobs creation commitment with a purchase of rail-cars to an American subsidy of Canadian-based New Flyer Industries. Using the model developed by Jobs to Move America, reportedly eight other agencies, including big timers in New York and Chicago and even Amtrak, have made similar deals since 2012 when LA Metro inked the first one.
The agreements weren’t haphazard promises of the kind cities too often make using Community Development Block Grant funds to pave the way for favored developers with vague commitments about job training or development. They had the numbers on full-time jobs – and wages – that would be created. The multiplier impact to the Los Angeles community was huge in the original agreement, as reported in the New York Times, with some $18 million, creating a significant advantage for New Flyer’s bid.
I’m not surprised since Madeline Janis, executive director of Jobs to Move America, was formerly the director and sparkplug for LAANE, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a community-labor nonprofit that ACORN long respected and admired as a sister freedom fighter, innovator, and partner on living wage and community-benefit agreements. Nor was I surprised to see that they had filed suit in California courts against New Flyer when they discovered that the company had underpaid the workers employed under the manufacturing contract by as much as a buck an hour. Additionally, records reviewed by the Times and provided by the nonprofit found that the benefits package was half of what was promised.
Back in the day, I’ve sat on panels at conferences on living wages with her and other LAANE representatives, and they were always in the lead in banging the drum that an organization needs to work as hard on enforcement of an agreement as they worked to win the agreement in the beginning, which was always excellent advice, but too often either ignored or past the interest and capacity of the original campaigns.
This is a campaign that should be happening in every city. Why not make the best deal for everyone on the front end, and then make sure the deal is honored on the back end?
No good reason that I can think of, and Jobs to Move America has already paved the road both going and coming.
Please enjoy How Glad I Am by Chrissie Hynde and the Valve Bone Woe Ensemble.