NEWS RELEASE: California High-Speed Rail Partners with Labor on Operating Nation’s First High-Speed Rail Project

November 17, 2023

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) and 13 rail labor unions announced today that they have entered an agreement that ensures the hard-earned gains in federal labor laws will be applicable to the operations of the nation’s first high-speed rail project. The 13 rail labor unions include:

  • The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED)
  • Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS)
  • International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Mechanical and Engineering Department (SMART-MD)
  • National Conference of Firemen and Oilers 32BJ/SEIU (NCFO)
  • Transportation Communications Union (TCU)
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM)
  • Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (BRC)
  • International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB)
  • Transport Workers Union of America (TWU)
  • American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA)
  • International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Department (SMART-TD)
  • Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET)
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)

This agreement will cover an estimated 3,000 workers who will operate and maintain high-speed trains, facilities, and stations from the Bay Area through the Central Valley and into Southern California. The running of the 171-mile Merced to Bakersfield Section alone will create nearly 400 operating jobs, a number that will grow as the service expands beyond the Central Valley.

“Since the start of construction, the State’s high-speed rail project has created thousands of good-paying union jobs throughout California,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “We’re proud to continue our strong partnership with labor through the operations of the nation’s first electrified high-speed rail service.”

“The Authority is proud to continue its tradition of working with labor unions and we are pleased to have reached this important agreement that ensures we have the highest quality working conditions for our highly trained and qualified workers,” said Authority CEO Brian Kelly. “This is essential to ensuring that California’s high-speed rail system will be operated with the safest and highest quality of service for our passengers.”

“As the nation’s largest transportation labor union federation, we are proud to support monumental projects like the California high-speed rail project, which will deliver a modern, efficient, and green transit system while putting skilled union members to work,” said Greg Regan, President of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.

“This historic agreement was made because the California High-Speed Rail Authority has a vision for the future, a vision that will assist the California economy, and provide good-paying jobs, and as we all know, trains are the best friend of our environment,” said Dean Devita, President, National Conference of Firemen & Oilers District of Local 32BJ/SEIU.

“The BRS has supported CAHSR from its inception. High-speed rail is the future of public transportation, and we are committed to fostering growth and jobs in California. The BRS is proud to contribute to a sustainable and environmentally friendly transportation system. Our support will continue with each phase of this important project,” said Michael S. Baldwin, President of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.

“The Teamsters Rail Conference welcomes the opportunity to represent the workers who will play a vital role in the success of California’s high-speed rail system,” said Mark Wallace, President of the Teamsters Rail Conference. “Our members are proud to be Teamsters, and they know the importance of strong union contracts. Rail Conference unions BLET and BMWED look forward to negotiating contracts that reflect the skill of the highly-trained professionals that they represent.”

Tour goers clad in personal protective equipment survey construction, a cloudless sky overhead. Tour goers clad in personal protective equipment survey construction, a cloudless sky overhead.

Some members of these Unions visited construction sites in the summer of 2023.

This agreement ensures that the employees doing traditional rail work on the project will be able to determine for themselves what representation, if any, they want, and that those employees can be covered by the Rail Labor Act, the Railroad Retirement Act of 1974, and the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. The agreement also ensures that basic labor provisions, including protecting employees from being questioned about their support or nonsupport for labor, and giving unions reasonable access to employees, will be enforced on the project.

To operate and maintain the high-speed rail system, the Authority will need to employ thousands of people across the state on its trains, at its stations, its heavy and light maintenance facilities, and other facilities in various capacities, including operating, engineering, maintenance of equipment, dispatch, on-board service, and clerical work.

The Authority has been committed to strong partnerships with labor for over a decade. In September, the Authority marked 10 years since the establishment of the Community Benefits Agreement. Signed and executed in 2013, this agreement promotes employment and business opportunities during construction while advancing training opportunities to targeted and disadvantaged workers.

To date, construction progress in the Central Valley has resulted in the creation of over 11,500 good-paying union jobs, with more than 1,600 skilled workers dispatched to a high-speed rail construction site each day. Nearly 75% of the jobs created on the project go directly to individuals from disadvantaged communities.

The Authority has also partnered with the city of Selma, the Fresno Economic Development Corporation, the Fresno, Madera, Kings, Tulare Building Trades Council, and the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission to establish the Central Valley Training Center – a 12-week, pre-apprenticeship program. The no-cost, pre-apprenticeship training program is aimed at serving veterans, at-risk young adults, minority, and low-income populations in the Central Valley and provides them with hands-on construction industry training. Since the start of the training center, 151 students have graduated, with more than 1,000 inquiring about the program.

The Authority has begun to extend the 119 miles under construction to 171 miles of future electrified high-speed rail from Merced to Bakersfield. There are more than 25 active construction sites in California’s Central Valley, with the Authority having environmentally cleared 422 miles of the high-speed rail program from the Bay Area to the Los Angeles Basin, including the entire Northern California section from Merced to San Francisco.

Visit for the latest construction information.

Read the MOU here.

The following link contains recent video, animations, photography, press center resources and latest renderings:

These files are all available for free use, courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.


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