Four companies are competing for a $3.2 billion Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) contract to produce more than 1,000 new subway cars. This huge purchase has the potential to create jobs here in New York. Thanks to inclusion of language known as “the US Employment Plan” in the MTA’s request for proposals, bidders are being asked to spell out their plans for hiring and training workers needed to fulfill the contract. This came in response to advocacy from the Jobs to Move America-New York Coalition, comprised of labor unions, transit advocates, community organizations and workforce development groups. The coalition, that Community Service Society is part of, is now urging the MTA to consider as part of its evaluation process to give high scores to bidders who commit to a robust employment plan that includes promoting job opportunities to disadvantaged workers.
Rates of unemployment and underemployment run highest among blacks and Latinos reflecting long-standing inequities in education, access to jobs, job-training opportunities and, to be sure, the effects of poverty, employment discrimination and the criminal justice system. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute’s analysis of CPS census data, in the first half of 2016, underemployment rates for blacks and Hispanics statewide stood at 13.3% and 11.6% respectively, compared to 7.6% for non-Hispanic whites. Underemployment, a broader measure than unemployment, takes into account discouraged workers and those working part-time because they are unable to find full-time jobs. Large transit system investments like the MTA R34211 subway contract offer a unique opportunity to stimulate economic growth in hard-hit urban communities still recovering seven years after the Great Recession by prioritizing outreach, training and hiring efforts to disadvantaged workers, including veterans, individuals with criminal records and the long-term unemployed.
The good news is there is strong public support for using taxpayer-funded projects like this one to target jobs to low-income workers and those who have been disproportionately affected by poverty.
In our latest Unheard Third survey, the Community Service Society asked New Yorkers if they support ensuring that large public works projects like the MTA’s R34211 procurement -- the largest subway purchase in the New York City MTA’s history – include incentives for “training and local hiring, especially of low-income workers.” Sixty-seven percent of all respondents, across incomes and demographics, favored this approach and 70 percent of low-income respondents supported it.