On Oct. 7, the White House is hosting a “Summit on Worker Voice,” allowing working people to share their stories on how we can rewrite the rules to create an economy that works for everyone. Every day until the summit, we'll be highlighting the stories of workers and their struggles to make sure their voices are heard on the job.
Today, we take a look at Vincent Louque and the workers at Kinkisharyo who recently formed their own union with Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 11.
Louque works as a wire technician at Kinkisharyo, a Japanese firm that won a bid to manufacture rail cars for the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Prior to being hired at Kinkisharyo, Louque had been repeatedly rejected for employment opportunities because of mistakes he acknowledges making in the past.
All that changed when Vincent became a member of the Black Worker Center (BWC) in South Los Angeles.
BWC’s Ready to Work program prepares and refers workers of color for quality jobs. Groups like BWC focus on the successes and improvement of working people, instead of past mistakes.
BWC aims to develop organized power and grassroots leadership within communities of color to change the disproportionate level of unemployment.
After completing the Ready to Work program, Louque started working at Kinkisharyo. The company not only hired Louque, but it hired other BWC graduates who were referred by the program.
Kinkisharyo’s unique employment practices were a direct result of the city’s transit manufacturing procurement policy, which incentivized bidders with high-road employment practices, including hiring from disadvantaged communities and developing robust workforce development programs.
The partnership between Kinkisharyo and the Black Worker Center shows the benefits that accrue for working people and their communities when public dollars are spent wisely and with the greater good in mind.
Louque believes this shows people that they are valued and respected:
I hope that all employers can learn to have an open mind about people who have the skills, qualifications and commitment to do a great job and not simply reject them because of past mistakes. What's important is taking responsibility for our actions. The best employees may be those who have learned the hard way about the importance of improving skills, learning from mistakes and always doing the best they can. Everyone who is willing to work hard deserves a chance to shine.
Kinkisharyo’s workers and the company are now in negotiations for a contract that will forge the way for even greater success for the workers, the company and the Los Angeles community.