October 2019, New York – Representatives from a coalition of community, labor, civil rights, and environmental groups from Alabama delivered a letter to Chris Stoddart, the President of the bus division of New Flyer Industries this week, urging him to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement to create better jobs, equal opportunity, and healthier communities for workers across the country.
The group delivered the letter to Stoddart during the annual American Public Transportation Association conference, the largest gathering of transportation professionals in the country. In the letter, the coalition asked New Flyer to sit down with workers and community groups to negotiate a national Community Benefits Agreement. The Coalition also gave Stoddart a copy of a new report that details Alabama worker complaints about racial discrimination and sexual harassment and concerns about health and safety in the factory.
Community Benefits Agreements have been used across the country in recent years to ensure public investment advances equity, centers worker and community needs, and allows cities and states to see real returns on their investment in new infrastructure projects. More than 60 percent of New Flyer’s income comes from taxpayer-funded purchases of their products.
Manufacturing is booming in “right-to-work” Southern states, but manufacturers have also exacerbated poverty with low wages and temporary jobs, violated health and safety laws, contributed to environmental problems, and engaged in racial and gender discrimination. Without community involvement that secures equal opportunity, family-supporting wages, and healthier communities, new manufacturing plants in the South will do little to improve the lives of workers and local residents.
“Workers across the country are facing stagnating wages while corporate greed goes unchecked. Our coalition is standing up for workers and communities to prove that organizing for the common good can mean winning broader benefits like inclusivity and equity for communities,” said Patricia Todd, former Alabama State Representative and now Southern Policy Manager for Jobs to Move America.
“We all deserve better and Alabama is no exception. Better wages, better job opportunities, better working conditions, better benefits. That’s why we’re excited to work with community leaders across the country to improve working conditions for workers in New Flyer plants in Alabama and across America. When so much of our public money goes to support these facilities, the public should have a say in how the community will benefit economically,” said Scott Douglas, a community member and head of the Greater Birmingham Ministries.
Jobs to Move America released a report documenting the results of interviews with New Flyer workers and preliminary findings from an academic study of manufacturing workers across Alabama and Mississippi by Alabama A&M University (AAMU) that JMA is helping to fund. In the report, JMA documented worker reports of significant mandatory overtime, disparate treatment based on race and gender, and complaints about retaliation for speaking up about problems.
AAMU’s preliminary report shows that 43 percent of surveyed workers identifying themselves as black or African American reported being denied promotions, feeling isolated, receiving less support from management, and being treated as if they were incompetent because of their race.