The bipartisan infrastructure law, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), included a major investment in zero-emission buses. Transit agencies will be further incentivized to switch to these buses and help transition to a lower-carbon, more sustainable future. But without the right policies in place, we worry that workers could be left behind in this green transition.
At Jobs to Move America, we’ve been thinking about this transition, and how we build equity into all aspects of it, for a long time. In 2019, we released a report on how zero-emission buses can benefit the environment and the economy. We recommended policy solutions to prioritize communities that have historically borne the burden of pollution and to create good jobs throughout the supply chain.
This week, we took more steps to make sure workers don’t get left behind as our buses go green. We had recommended ensuring that maintenance workers at transit agencies receive the training they need to repair these new electric buses and suggested that transit agencies procure training when they buy their vehicles. That way, manufacturers of zero-emission buses can train transit workers on how to fix them. On Wednesday, we released a report along with the International Transportation Learning Center that provides language transit agencies can use to procure this training.
Manufacturers have frequently been selling extended warranties along with their zero-emission buses, so that the manufacturers fix the buses for the transit agencies. This leaves agency technicians ill-equipped to perform needed repairs once the warranty period ends. It also effectively outsources work currently performed by mostly-unionized public transit workers. If these practices continue, thousands of good-paying jobs are at risk.
As an alternative, we worked with ITLC to write language that agencies can use to buy training from the manufacturers, instead of purchasing extended warranties. The report’s recommendations are based on a variety of RFPs containing strong language on procurement and drawn from multiple interviews with leadership and staff from transit agencies, independent procurement trainers, and representatives from transit labor unions. The report also provides a list of customizable training requirements, as well as training on special tools and diagnostic equipment.
This language will be especially useful to transit agencies now that the infrastructure bill has passed. In a victory for workers, the bill requires agencies to create a plan to train their workforce in zero-emission technologies and avoid displacement, and to invest in workforce development. We believe our report can provide a set of tools for agencies as they embark on this workforce transition.
We encourage transit agencies to use this language, and will work to encourage them to build it into their procurement process. We know that transit workers can be an important part of our transition to a green energy future as long as they are given the tools to succeed.