Kinkisharyo International LLC has scrapped plans to build a rail car manufacturing plant in Palmdale following a labor dispute and will instead look outside California to locate the facility.
The Japanese company made the decision after failing to reach an agreement with Antelope Valley Residents for Responsible Development, a labor-supported group that objected to the plant citing environmental reasons.
The group, which includes members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 11, in Pasadena, also objected to a backup plan by Kinkisharyo to build the cars in leased space from Los Angeles World Airports in Palmdale.
The company is currently leasing hangar space from LAWA at Site 9 at East Avenue P where it is assembling rail cars for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro. The assembly procedure involves connecting the chassis and shell and then installing seats and other interior improvements. The plant work would be more extensive, including manufacturing of the shells.
The appeal that has disrupted plans for the plant came about after IBEW Local No. 11 and Kinkisharyo could not agree on using card check at the proposed facility. Card check is a process by which a workplace can unionize if 50 percent or more of workers sign cards stating they want to be represented for collective bargaining.
“It is regrettable that Kinkisharyo has been pushed down this path, but given your clients’ intransigence, Kinkisharyo must now do so to meet its schedule requirements,” stated an Oct. 10 letter from the company’s lawyer to attorneys for the residents’ group.
Kinkisharyo, the El Segundo-based U.S. arm of Kinki Sharyo Co. Ltd. of Osaka, is currently assembling 78 light rail cars for Metro with delivery of the first car expected this month. The company has exercised an option to build an additional 97 cars.
Metro Chief Executive Art Leahy was notified by email on Friday of the company’s plans not to proceed with the Palmdale plant.
Agency spokesman Marc Littman said he was disappointed by the company’s decision but added it would not affect the delivery of Metro’s cars.
“This is a real loss,” Littman said. “We wanted them here to help the local economy but we cannot require Kinkisharyo do (manufacturing) here.”
The company had plans for a $50 million, 400,000-square-foot facility to be built on vacant land on Avenue M near Sierra Highway.
The labor-supported residents' group appealed an August decision by the Palmdale Planning Commission that recommended approval of the plant’s site plan without requiring a new environmental report. The commission’s decision was based on reports completed in 1993 and 1996 for a planned office park on the site.
Attempts to reach representatives of the union were not successful.