Jobs to Move America

Investments in urban infrastructure – such as highways, water systems and energy systems – serve as a critical pathway to support the well-being of communities. Infrastructure investments have the ability to mitigate the challenges of climate change as well as support economic justice for the communities where those investments are made.

American cities spend about $5.4 billion each year to buy buses and rail cars for public transportation. Much of this infrastructure funding goes to global corporations that manufacture goods overseas – bypassing millions of workers in struggling communities across the country.

About the Organization

In 2013, Madeline Janis, a longtime advocate for workers’ rights and Linda Nguyen, along with community, labor and government groups helped to found Jobs to Move America (JMA) to address these challenges and increase equity for historically marginalized people. Through research, strategy and advocacy, JMA is reshaping the economy and creating good jobs and a more sustainable future for American workers.

“The power of a good job is community-changing, country-changing,” explained Janis.

With offices in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City – cities in states that make about 50 percent of the infrastructure purchases in the country – JMA has created more than 2,500 factory jobs and thousands more indirect jobs across the U.S. by negotiating community benefits agreements with six global industrial corporations. These agreements have spurred new factories in places like South Chicago, which opened an electric bus factory that now has a unionized workforce of 1,000 – most of whom are local residents and people of color. “Conditions are really good, and people are happy,” Janis explained. “People are building houses and raising families. It’s spectacular to see the difference quality jobs make in people’s lives.”

Targeting infrastructure investments to build a more inclusive workforce that lifts people into middle-class jobs is paramount to JMA’s mission. The organization has established three statewide coalitions that provide a platform and the necessary tools and resources for veterans, single parents, women, people of color and other historically marginalized workers to hold manufacturing companies accountable to the communities in which they do business.

JMA is also tackling the demand side of manufacturing. Its Los Angeles coalition recently convinced the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the City of LA to electrify their bus fleet by 2030 – not only sustaining the demand for the buses built in the high desert above Los Angeles, but also creating a more rapid implementation of zero-emission public transport. Next up: the Los Angeles Unified School District, which owns 1400 diesel buses, the NY MTA and the Chicago Transit Authority.

For Janis, the work is about shifting away from the narrative that “cheapest is best” and that privatizing government programs is the answer. “We think that value, democracy and the triple-bottom line are best,” she explained. “We’re changing the idea of what government can and should do.”

Surdna provided the seed money to launch the project. Today, they are a proud partner in helping JMA hold the government accountable to spending taxpayer dollars used for infrastructure to create good jobs, investing in people, the environment and economy.

Recently, a Surdna board member and key staff participated in a U.S. Senate briefing about utilizing federal infrastructure funds to maximize good jobs. Surdna’s leadership has also attended, meetings with federal and local transportation authorities, and helped JMA forge new partnerships that could mean more equitable jobs for workers across the country.