Hi! I’m Renee, and I Build Great Buses.

My name is Renee Brand and I help manufacture passenger buses at the New Flyer assembly plant in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I’m honored to be participating in today’s Minneapolis Worker Voice Summit on behalf of all of the workers at the plant. The reason I want to be a part of this summit is that I believe having a voice in the workplace is the key to good jobs, and to making American companies competitive. I want to explain why – but first, there are two important things you need to know about me and my coworkers: We are members of Communications Workers of America Local 7304, and we build great buses. Renee Brand holds a sign that says "I pledge to Start the Convo for transportation" Some say that manufacturing in this country is dead, but I know Secretary Perez doesn’t believe that. I know President Obama doesn’t believe that either. And I am living proof that manufacturing is indeed alive: At our plant, we complete four buses per day for cities across North America, from Baltimore to Calgary to Los Angeles. The problem is that it’s difficult for workers like us to compete in an economy where competition is based not on quality, innovation or efficiency, but on a terrible race to the bottom. If competition is fair, we know that American workers − that New Flyer workers − can win hands down. As part of its procurement process for new passenger buses, the city of Los Angeles required bidders to disclose how many American jobs would be created, the quality of those jobs, the commitment to hire from disadvantaged communities and the robustness of the workforce development program. New Flyer won the bid because our buses are high-quality and because New Flyer jobs are high-quality. We created 150 new jobs in St. Cloud and another 50 in Los Angeles as a result. Through our union, we continually work to improve our product and our jobs. And we’re partnering with New Flyer on improved workforce training and development, which means increased mobility and opportunities for advancement for workers. New employees now receive more training than when I started at the plant a number of years ago, and internal promotions are possible because a pipeline of skilled workers is cultivated within the company.  I’ve seen firsthand how the very best apprenticeship and training programs are those where employers partner with employees through their unions. One of my colleagues is a woman of color who had moved to the area from Chicago with nothing. Today, she and several of her family members work at the New Flyer plant, and they have a much brighter future. “This company saved my family,” she once told me. This is what it means to have a good union job. To have a voice in the workplace. Our union also is encouraging New Flyer to hire more women and veterans as well as more workers who come from disadvantaged communities. That’s why we’re part of Jobs to Move America, a nationwide coalition seeking to make sure the billions of public dollars spent on public transit systems create better results for our communities: good jobs, cleaner equipment and more opportunity for low income people. By telling our story, I hope we can inspire others to organize, and to stimulate more good jobs across the country. We’re proof that having a voice helps taxpayer dollars for public transit go the distance, and helps American manufacturers compete on a level playing field. Renee Brand of is the vice president of Communications Workers of America Local 7304. Editor’s Note: The first regional summit on worker voice is Feb. 9 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Department of Labor and the White House are focused on bringing together seasoned and emerging leaders from across the country who are lifting up workers’ voices to be active participants in this conversation. Join the conversation online and help us continue to #StartTheConvo and share why having #WorkerVoice is important to you.

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