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  • Sacred Conversations 2016

The Rev. T. Ray McJunkins: Ensure Minorities, Women benefit from 10th Street Rail Work

The recognition of Labor Day as a national holiday for the working man came about as a result of a law signed by President Grover Cleveland in 1882.

Although Cleveland was not a significant labor union supporter himself, he found the legislation enacting Labor Day as a national holiday to be a symbolic remedy for political damage he had suffered earlier that same year.

During this time, he used federal troops to thwart an American Railway Union strike in Chicago, and as a result, 34 railroad workers were killed.

Between 1850 and 1860 Illinois railroads grew from more than 100 miles to over 1,100 miles. The work created jobs, growth and opportunity for residents and communities throughout Illinois.

Recent news stories, editorials and public meetings have described the scope and extent of this city’s rail relocation project. The Springfield Rail Improvement Project will consolidate all rail traffic onto the 10th Street corridor. This work should create jobs, careers and opportunities for many, especially residents of Springfield’s east side — the area most directly affected by this project.

There are three fundamental environmental justice principles used as the basis for the Federal Rail Administration’s decision approving this relocation project:

to avoid, minimize or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority populations and low income populations;
to ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process;
and to prevent the denial of, reduction in or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low-income populations.
Keeping in mind these principles, the Faith Coalition for the Common Good has implemented a community benefits agreement and a planning and monitoring committee to assure the disproportionate costs that the Springfield minority community will have to bear in the relocation of the rail lines are offset by real and substantial benefits to the community.

These benefits take the form of jobs, business development and a voice in the decision-making process.

There are multiple decision makers involved in a project of this magnitude. Whether they are elected officials, agency officials in state, federal and local governments, railroad officials, selected contractors or union official and members, all are accountable.

On this Labor Day weekend, we ask these decision makers to commit to another long overdue improvement and assure that local minorities and women are recruited, trained and hired to move these rails.

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