WASHINGTON–Railways haven’t historically been the easiest place for minority contractors or potential employees to get work, and Indiana’s Andre Carson took up the issue in his part of a House Transportation Subcommittee hearing Tuesday.
“What do you all think would be the most impactful way to increase the number of Black and brown professionals in the rail sector, overall,” asked the Democratic Congressman, who represents Indianapolis, as part of the “Subcommittee Hearing on Does Discrimination Exist in Federal Passenger Rail Contracting?”
“Is this led by industry or is there more action needed by the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration), or DOT or even Amtrak?” he asked.
The testimony came from industry professionals, including heads of minority contractors.
Some of the answers centered on what company heads, like CEOs can do to increase minority participation. One of the people testifying was Melvin Clark, Jr., owner, Chairman and CEO of G.W. People Contracting Company, Inc., one of the country;s first minority-owned railroad contractors.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us as minority contractors to reach out and try and train individuals who are interested in the work,” he said.
He described training people who were enrolled at a trade school in New York for work in the rail industry.
Carson’s testimony also focused on Beech Grove’s Amtrak maintenance facility, which is the primary repair facility for the rail organization.
“I’m proud to represent the largest rail maintenance facility in Beech Grove, Indiana, where they repair locomotives and passenger rail cars. They do great work there,” said Carson. “But, there appears to be a closed process that’s really hard to break if you don’t know someone at the facility.”
Carson did not cite any specific examples.
“This challenge isn’t unique to our district. It’s a challenge for many facilities across the country, particularly as it relates to hiring Black and brown applicants,” he said.
While the subcommittee did not offer solutions at Tuesday’s hearing, the goal is to provide equity for minority contractors when federal contracts are awarded.