Late last year, President Barack Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (Fast Act) approving $305 billion in transit spending. The Act includes a number of provisions, including a 10 percent increase in Buy America requirements meant to boost domestic American manufacturing.
On February 19, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx sent a letter to transportation stakeholders encouraging the use of innovative ideas to maximize the impact of the Fast Act. The letter also highlighted a new contracting tool developed by Jobs to Move America (JMA), the U.S. Employment Plan (USEP), as an innovative approach to using public transportation funds to create good jobs and ladders of opportunity in the United States.
Leaders across the country hailed the letter as an important step forward for domestic manufacturing. "This letter shows transit industry decision makers that there is a path toward truly making our transit dollars go the distance,” said Madeline Janis, JMA’s executive director.
“Secretary Foxx has once again demonstrated the Obama Administration's commitment to leveraging every opportunity to create good, middle-class jobs for all Americans,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD).
A commitment to U.S-made products is a commitment to creating U.S. jobs and improving the economy for some of America's most excluded communities. According to a study released by JMA and the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst), the mandatory minimum official domestic content requirements for buses and railcars purchased with taxpayer funds is only 40 percent of the value of a vehicle.
The USEP was developed by a team of lawyers, researchers, business and labor leaders, in partnership with transit agencies such as LA Metro and the Chicago Transit Authority to help transit agencies maximize the jobs and economic impact of publicly funded train and bus purchases above the mandatory minimum.
In his letter, Secretary Foxx said, "There are many innovative ideas and approaches in using transportation funds to create jobs. The Jobs to Move America Coalition developed one such idea, the U.S. Employment Plan, for the purchase of rolling stock. The U.S. Employment Plan is a contractual provision that provides incentives for companies to create American jobs, locate facilities in the United States, and generate opportunities for unemployed workers through recruiting and training efforts."
To date, the USEP has been included in requests for proposals issued by five major transportation agencies: Los Angeles Metro, Chicago Transit Authority, Maryland Transportation authority, the Metropolitan Council of Minneapolis-St Paul and Amtrak.
Alaa Milbes oversees internal and external communications for Jobs to Move America, streamlining messaging and assisting with media relations and the organization’s website and social media presence. She can be reached at [email protected]