Today’s launch of a $647 million contract with LA Metro at the giant Chinese Railway Rolling Stock Corp. plant in Springfield comes as critics are warning against doing business with the company.
A letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin June 1 tells of “grave concern” among a “wide bipartisan swath of policy leaders” worried that CRRC’s backing by the communist government poses a threat.
The letter also raises questions about “forced labor” and “forced child labor” and the company’s goal to “conquer” the global rail industry, the letter from the Rail Security Alliance states.
Erik Olson, executive director of the alliance of rail and steel leaders, told the Herald on Monday that CRRC poses “economic and national security concerns.”
“Do you want to let them in the system?” Olson said. “D.C., Atlanta and Chicago have pushed back but I’m baffled by other parts of the country that still think hiring CRRC is a good idea.”
CRRC’s 204,000 sq. ft. plant in Springfield employs 308 in jobs a spokeswoman said are union-backed and coveted. The company is looking to hire 60 more.
“We find the criticism unfair,” said CRRC’s Lydia Rivera. “It’s a rail-car maker. There are no U.S. rail-car companies.”
She added “the climate” surrounding China — from trade fights to the origins of the coronavirus pandemic — “doesn’t help.” But LA Metro is rolling out the first phase of a potential $647 million contract calling for upward of 282 subway cars.
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, a Norfolk Republican, said his bill calling for an end to contracts with the Chinese-owned firm is stuck on Beacon Hill — but a similar one passed in Illinois in May. That state’s general assembly adopted an amendment banning any deal with a “nonmarket economy country” of over $1 million.
China, Iran and North Korea fall into that category, Olson said.
“This is very important on multiple levels,” Dooley said. “Let’s face it. This experiment is not working on multiple levels. This pandemic taught us, if nothing else, being reliant on foreign countries — for medicine, manufacturing, N95 masks — is just not a smart move.”
As the Herald has reported, CRRC has an $800 million contract with the MBTA to build a new fleet of Orange and Red Line cars. A deployment of the new cars on both lines has been taken out of service while investigators look into a March derailment on the Orange Line.
“CRRC’s rapidly growing presence in the U.S. transit rail industry is destabilizing to vital subsets of American industry and potentially to the vital U.S.-based freight railcar industry,” the Rail Security Alliance letter to the Pentagon chief states.
(c) 2021 the Boston Herald
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