President's Report

Issue 2 2017

The Chicago Federation of Labor was established in November 1896 to strengthen the efforts of individual local unions by creating a unified voice for the labor movement across the Chicagoland area.

When people ask me what I do, what I always tell them is everything we do at the CFL is to better the lives of workers, the unionized, those who are fighting to organize their workplaces and those we intend to organize, because at the end of the day, it’s the workers who matter most.

I am proud of what we do at the CFL every day. I think one of the best examples of our work is bringing rail car manufacturing back to Chicago’s South Side. (Read more on page 6.) In late 2016, CRRC Siafang won the bid and in March 2017, they held a groundbreaking to begin construction on the new facility. The groundbreaking was the culmination of four years of the CFL collaborating with IBEW Local 134, Sheet Metal Workers Local 73, their international unions, Jobs to Move America, the city and the CTA. 

Chicago has a proud history of rail car manufacturing, produced at the Pullman factory from the 1880s until the last car rolled off the assembly line in 1981. Now, 36 years later, good American jobs are returning, and rail cars will once again be union made on Chicago’s South Side.

We commend the CTA for including the U.S. Employment Plan in this bid process, requiring bidders to outline a robust American jobs program that includes a commitment to worker recruitment and a workforce development program. JMA originally created the U.S. Employment Plan to responsibly leverage our public dollars to purchase transit equipment, and, make no mistake about it, without the language contained in the U.S. Employment Plan, we would not be celebrating a new rail car facility here in Chicago.

For many years, we watched U.S. manufacturing jobs move overseas. However, the size of this bid put Chicago in a unique position to leverage a robust manufacturing jobs program that will strengthen the middle class, stimulate increased investment in new domestic manufacturing facilities, and create opportunities for low-income communities. We have shown that our comprehensive plan, that takes vision and effort to bring to fruition, should be emulated by other cities across America. It ensures we are working to not only improve Chicago’s transit system, but to help our tax dollars go further by taking into account the long-term economic impact on the region and the country.

CRRC also agreed to a community benefits agreement with the CFL, IBEW, SMART, and the JMA coalition. What does that mean? It means CRRC has signed a multi-lateral agreement with us to make sure the residents in this region come first. CRRC is developing a job training and apprenticeship program, in collaboration with the CFL Workforce and Community Initiative, IBEW, SMART, and JMA, that focuses on hiring and training workers from disadvantaged communities, such as veterans, women, formerly incarcerated individuals and communities of color.

This is what lifting up our communities looks like, and this is why the CFL spent four years working to bring this rail car facility to fruition. I would like to thank our union partners, IBEW, SMART, and their local leadership, Don Finn, Business Manager of IBEW Local 134, and Rocco Terranova, President and Business Manager of Sheet Metal Workers Local 73.

This coalition from across Chicago is leading the way to bringing good high-road manufacturing jobs back to the United States because we know that working together moves the needle for everyone.