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Coalition calls for more minorities, women on rail work

Minorities and women would make up closer to 30 percent of workers and contractors if rail-consolidation construction in Springfield represented the local workforce, members of a community action group said Monday.

While specific numbers were not offered, the president of Faith Coalition for the Common Good said rail work up to now has failed to meet even the 4.5 percent mandate required on federally funded construction projects.

The hiring commitment, said the Rev. T. Ray McJunkins, coalition president and co-founder, was essential to winning support on Springfield’s east side for consolidating Third Street trains on the 10th Street tracks.

“We want those working on this project to reflect the community,” McJunkins said during a press conference at the Carpenter Street rail crossing.

The media event was called to urge support for updating federal hiring standards enacted during the Johnson administration in 1979.

Construction of a $20 million underpass at Carpenter Street between Ninth and 11th streets is the first major piece of railroad consolidation. Federal and state funding are paying for the bulk of rail-consolidation construction. Moving trains from Third to 10th Street is expected to take more than a decade and cost an estimated $315 million.

McJunkins said after the press conference that while construction has only just started, the coalition intends to hold local officials to the hiring goals for minorities and women. He added that one of the challenges will be breaking the traditional pattern of jobs and contracts going to the politically connected.

“I can say this as an outsider looking in, having been here for 12 years now,” McJunkins said. “We’re still operating under the good ol’ boy plan. If you are not in the mainstream of the good ol’ boy, then you will be left out.”

Also Monday, McJunkins said the coalition has support for its updated hiring goals from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston, the Sangamon County Board, Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Labor.

He said the coalition has collected 500 local signatures in support of the effort. The group was joined at the press conference by state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill.

Manar, who is seeking re-election, said meeting hiring goals for minorities and women would help assure continued funding for rail consolidation.

“It’s time for our congressional delegation to take this on,” Manar said. “This gives us an opportunity to put into motion lasting change in Springfield.”

Contact Tim Landis: 788-1536, tim.landis@sj-r.com, twitter.com/timlandisSJR.

Read more: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20141006/News/141009685#ixzz3GcwsLATq

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