High Speed Rail Creates 13,000 Union Jobs


FRESNO—On March 19, the California High-Speed Rail Authority celebrated the creation of more than 13,000 construction jobs helping build the nation’s first high-speed rail system.

Although more than 70 percent of those jobs are going to residents of California’s Central Valley, where the first segment is being constructed, the robust employment will also boost Building Trades members in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

“The strength of our brothers and sisters in Fresno, Tulare and Kern Counties is our strength too,” said LA/OC Building Trades Executive Secretary Ernesto Medrano. “These are affiliated unions, and we look forward to them lending their experience and expertise as the work comes our way in Southern California.” 

He noted that the all-union Brightline West high speed rail between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga, planned to break ground this year, will also offer opportunities.

For now, the spotlight remains on towns like Hanford, Merced, Wasco and Bakersfield, as skilled workers bring the rail infrastructure south.

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Union Iron Worker Desrae Ruiz.
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Desrae Ruiz builds the Hanford viaduct.
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Other counties have supplied 3,387 workers, and 369 come from out of state.
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Like this viaduct, much of the work is to keep freeway and train traffic separate.
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A hard-working union crew at the Wasco viaduct.
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Union members build a grade separation.
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Construction of the system from San Francisco to Los Angeles began in 2015. On average, nearly 1,400 Building Trades union members are dispatched each day to a high-speed rail construction site.

Although the project is taking longer and costing more than originally planned, the majority of Californians support it. The rail authority currently has 119 miles currently under construction and will extend to 171 miles of construction, bringing it to the Southern California gateway of Bakersfield. There are currently more than 25 active construction sites in the Central Valley, and the authority has fully environmentally cleared 422 miles.

Chuck Riojas, Secretary-Treasurer of the Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, shares Medrano’s enthusiasm.
 “High-speed rail construction has continued to flourish, creating good paying construction jobs for men and women across the Valley,” Riojas said. “As the number of construction sites continues to grow, so does the need of a growing workforce to bring the nation’s first high-speed rail system to California. When construction grows, these workers and their families thrive, and we couldn’t build this system without them.”

For more than a decade, the Authority has been a strong partner with the California State Building Trades. In 2023, the Authority marked 10 years since the establishment of its Community Benefits Agreement with the Building Trades, which has helped create thousands of good-paying union jobs, with most of the jobs going directly to individuals from disadvantaged communities.“Before working high-speed rail, I worked other jobs maybe 80 miles away from home. This job keeps me close to home. It has helped me save money, buy my first house, and support my family,” says union journeyman Jesse Lopez.

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