A coalition of open government organizations led by Jobs to Move America recently won a decision by the Los Angeles Superior Court (case #BC621090) that information related to jobs promises in a Los Angeles Metro contract with Canadian multinational bus manufacturer New Flyer should be released the public.
New Flyer won a $500 million contract with Metro in 2013 for compressed natural gas buses based, in large part, on its promises about the number and quality of the jobs it would create. The corporation earned points for committing to create 69 new jobs in California and the U.S, helping to push it to the top of the list of bidders. But in May, 2016, New Flyer filed a lawsuit asking the court to block Metro from releasing information about its employees’, wages, and benefits by arguing that doing so would result in disclosure of “trade secret information.”
The court agreed with Jobs to Move America, a national coalition of 30 community, civil rights, labor, and faith groups, that New Flyer should not be allowed to subvert the release of critical information about public spending under the guise of protecting “trade secrets.”
“This is a win for taxpayers and the common good. If New Flyer had won, corporations might’ve been able to hide important details from the public, like whether they are following living wage laws,” said Madeline Janis, Jobs to Move America’s Executive Director.
The organizations that joined Jobs to Move America included In the Public Interest, Project On Government Oversight, Food & Water Watch, Center for Media and Democracy, Open The Government, Corporate Accountability International, and Californians Aware.
The case highlighted the growing trend of corporations using “reverse Public Records Act” lawsuits to subvert the release of critical information about public spending under the guise of protecting “trade secrets.” For example, Suez North America successfully urged officials in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to delay the release of financial information pertaining to the city’s plans to sell its public water system to the private water corporation. In Chicago, rail car manufacturer Bombardier continues to block key information from being released to the public regarding its compliance with mandated Buy American rules.