CFL News
March 17, 2017

Rail Car Manufacturing Returns to Chicago

Rail Car Manufacturing Returns to Chicago

The city of Chicago had much to celebrate when representatives from CRRC Sifang America joined with the Chicago Federation of Labor, IBEW, SMART, Jobs to Move America, the CTA, Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza and Mayor Emanuel to break ground on a new $100 million rail car facility on the Southeast Side of Chicago. This new facility will house the assembly plant for the CTA’s newest rail cars, the 7000-series, and create hundreds of new construction and skilled factory jobs.

At the groundbreaking ceremony on March 16, CFL President Jorge Ramirez stated, “This groundbreaking is the culmination of four years of collaboration with the city of Chicago to bring rail car manufacturing back to where it belongs. Chicago has a proud history of rail car manufacturing, produced at the Pullman plant from the 1880s until the last car rolled off the assembly line in 1981. Today, I’m proud to say that 36 years later, good American jobs are returning, and rail cars will once again be union made on Chicago’s Southside.”

“This new facility represents a major investment in Chicago that will bring economic opportunities to the Southeast Side, while creating good-paying jobs for hundreds of workers,” Mayor Emanuel said. “The rail cars that emerge from this facility will be the latest step we’ve taken to invest in world-class transportation, and to create a 21st Century transit system.”

As part of CTA’s ongoing modernization efforts, the agency last year awarded a manufacturing contract to CRRC’s U.S. subsidiary, CRRC Sifang America, to build up to 846 new rail cars. The CTA’s first order of 400 rail cars will be assembled at the new facility and will replace CTA’s oldest railcars, which are more than 30 years old. Once these new vehicles are in service, CTA will have one of the youngest fleets of any U.S. transit agency.

CRRC Sifang America is committed to hiring from communities that make up the city of Chicago and surrounding areas, and is working with the CFL’s Workforce & Community Initiative, IBEW Local 134 and Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 73 to hire and train a union workforce from within these communities.

“The size of this bid provided Chicago an opportunity to leverage a robust manufacturing jobs program and communities benefit agreement that will strengthen the middle class, stimulate increased investment in new domestic manufacturing facilities, and create opportunities for low-income communities,” said Ramirez.

As part of this agreement, CRRC and a coalition of labor and community groups signed a landmark agreement that will promote good jobs and economic growth in the manufacturing sector. “The community benefits agreement marks the first comprehensive jobs program of its kind that focuses on economic development in communities historically excluded from the manufacturing sector. Chicago is setting a precedent for the nation, lifting up industry standards and creating a model for how communities and businesses can work together in the future,” said Linda Nguyen, Deputy Director of Jobs to Move America.

The deal is a result of years of planning and discussions between the CFL, JMA, IBEW, SMART, the mayor and CRRC. “The community benefits agreement provides the opportunity for labor, business and the community to build a pipeline and help workers gain the skills necessary for good paying, family-supporting manufacturing jobs in Chicago,” said Joe Costigan, Executive Director for the CFL Workforce & Community Initiative.

Among the crowd that gathered for the official groundbreaking were brothers Alfonso and Ramon Quiroz. They both worked at the Pullman factory as members of Steelworkers Local 1834 until the day it closed in 1981. With historic pictures in hand, they talked to President Ramirez about their experiences working at the original Pullman facility and expressed the pride they feel to see rail car manufacturing returning to Chicago.

The new facility, expected to be complete in spring 2018, will assemble the CTA’s base order of 400 railcars for a total of $632 million or $1.58 million per car, with future options for an additional 446 railcars. The first rail car prototypes are expected to be completed in 2019.