Kinkisharyo International reached an agreement on Tuesday with labor and community groups that will keep light rail manufacturing jobs in Palmdale and not take them out of state.
Behind-the-scenes talks between the Japanese company, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 11, and Jobs to Move America Coalition were facilitated by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in the weeks after Kinkisharyo said in late October that it would look outside California to build a manufacturing plant for producing light rail cars.
Kinkisharyo is currently doing final assembly work on an order of 78 cars for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, in hangar space it leases from Los Angeles World Airports in Palmdale.
For the manufacturing work, Kinkisharyo will take additional hangar space although it was not immediately known how much, said spokesman Coby King.
“It is going to be a benefit for the company and a benefit for Los Angeles,” King said of the agreement.
Kinkisharyo has agreed to take a neutral position on whether its approximately 250 employees in Palmdale can unionize and it will work with Jobs to Move America Coalition on readiness training programs for veterans, women and other disadvantaged workers to be qualified for the manufacturing jobs.
Madeline Janis, director of Jobs to Move America, a national coalition based in Los Angeles of labor, environmental, civil rights and other groups advocating for good jobs in the transportation industry, said the programs target populations that may not necessarily seem themselves as manufacturing workers.
“Readiness is teaching people welding and other skills to hold jobs like this,” Janis said.
Kinkisharyo International, the El Segundo-based U.S. arm of Kinki Sharyo Co. Ltd. of Osaka, received a contract in 2012 from Metro for an order of 78 light rail cars, and options for an additional 97 cars. If options for another 60 cars are exercised by the Metro board the total contract with Kinkisharyo would be about $890 million.
The first pilot car was delivered to Metro in October and final assembly is being done on the second pilot car. Full production on the 78 cars is expected to start in the spring, King said.
Just a month ago, it seemed certain that Kinkisharyo would take its manufacturing jobs out of state after backing off plans to build a 400,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Palmdale to produce car shells, citing opposition to the project from a labor-backed group, Antelope Valley Residents for Responsible Development.
In September, a South San Francisco law firm filed on behalf of the group an appeal of the site plan approval given by the Palmdale Planning Commission. The appeal by the residents group asserts that the project could cause widespread environmental damage. Central to the argument were 1993 and 1996 environmental impact reports on the property that the appeal called “outdated.”
As part of the agreement, Antelope Valley Residents for Responsible Development, which includes IBEW Local No. 11 among its members, has dropped the environmental challenge.