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Project Labor Agreements (PLAs)

Maine lawmakers approve bill to jumpstart floating offshore wind, develop 3 GW by 2040

By Diana DiGangi - Utility Dive, July 27, 2023

Dive Brief:

  • The Maine legislature on Tuesday passed a bill requiring the state to procure 3 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2040, and establishing provisions regarding the construction and siting of future projects.
  • LD 1895 supports the creation of a port facility designed for fabricating and launching the materials needed to establish floating offshore wind farms, as the waters in the Gulf of Maine are too deep to accommodate fixed-bottom wind turbines.
  • The bill received broad-based support from state labor and environmental groups, as well as some fishing industry groups, who supported the bill’s provision to give priority to projects sited outside of a key fishing area known as Lobster Management Area 1, or LMA-1.

Maine Unions Near Compromise With Governor on Offshore Wind

By Lee Harris - The Prospect, July 14, 2023

Last month, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) vetoed a bill requiring a project labor agreement (PLA) for Maine offshore wind ports, arguing that the prehire deal would restrict the labor pool narrowly to union construction workers.

After the legislative session dragged on for another month, the building trades are now approaching a compromise on a reworked bill with Mills, a prominent champion of states’ climate action. The bill, which was advanced late Wednesday night by the state legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, is expected to move to Mills’s desk next week.

Instead of a PLA, it spells out a Community and Workforce Enhancement Agreement (CWEA), a list of labor standards for offshore wind development, including apprenticeship requirements and a ban on the use of independent contractors and temp staffing agencies. Most critically, it would require that all work happen at collectively bargained rates.

In other words, even non-union contractors on Maine’s offshore wind projects would be required to pay the statewide wage rates that unions agree upon with their contractors during collective bargaining.

“We want to be sure this industry is competing over things like technological innovation, as opposed to who can bargain down with workers,” Francis Eanes, director of the Maine Labor Climate Council, a coalition of state unions, told the Prospect.

The new bill combines two earlier pieces of legislation: the vetoed bill on ports, and a second bill on offshore wind energy procurement, which the governor had also threatened to veto due to its use of a PLA.

Why Maine’s climate-conscious governor vetoed an offshore wind bill

By Naveena Sadasivam - Grist, June 29, 2023

Ever since Democrat Janet Mills was elected governor of Maine in 2018, she has been a strong advocate for renewable energy in general and wind energy in particular. The state has tremendous potential for wind production, given the high wind velocities off its coast, and it has committed to procuring 100 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2050. Earlier this year, in an attempt to supercharge wind energy production in the state, Mills proposed legislation to speed up permitting for wind ports, sites where wind turbines could be built before being deployed offshore.

That bill got the votes needed to pass in the state legislature — only to be vetoed by Mills herself earlier this week. At issue are amendments to the bill made in the state senate, which require the undertaking to incorporate Project Labor Agreements, or PLAs, a type of collective bargaining agreement in the construction industry that streamlines work on projects and establishes standards for wages and working conditions — standards that are typically more robust than those that would prevail in their absence. 

In a letter vetoing the bill, the governor said the provision would have a “chilling effect” on companies that are non-unionized, raise construction costs for the wind port which would eventually be borne by Maine taxpayers, and lead to out-of-state workers being bussed to Maine. The idea is that the PLAs will lead to fewer firms pursuing contracts for work on the wind project — or firms will increase costs to meet the PLA requirements — leading to a higher overall price tag and less employment for local residents. (Only 10 percent of construction workers in Maine are in a union.)

Unions Furious After Democratic Maine Gov. Vetoes Offshore Wind Bill Over Fair Labor Rules

By Kenny Stancil - Common Dreams, June 28, 2023

Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Monday vetoed an offshore wind development bill because she opposed an amendment requiring collective bargaining agreements for future projects, drawing condemnation from the state's largest federation of unions.

"Maine's climate motto has been 'Maine Won't Wait.' With this veto, Gov. Mills is saying, 'Maine Will Wait'—for thousands of good jobs, for clean energy, and for the build-out of a new industry," Maine AFL-CIO executive director Matt Schlobohm said in a statement. "We will wait because the governor is opposed to fair labor standards which are the industry norm."

"The governor's ideological opposition to strong labor standards," said Schlobohm, "jeopardizes the build-out of this industry and all the climate, economic, and community benefits that come with it."

Mills supported an earlier version of Legislative Document (L.D.) 1847 that originated from her office. Last week, however, the governor made clear that she opposed the addition of an amendment requiring project labor agreements (PLAs)—pre-hire deals negotiated between unions and employers that establish wage floors and other conditions—for the construction of offshore wind ports as well as the manufacturing of turbines and other components needed for wind energy projects.

In a letter to state lawmakers, "Mills argued that mandating a PLA would create a 'chilling effect' for non-union companies, discouraging them from bidding on construction," The American Prospect's Lee Harris reported. "Supporters of the PLA provision say that is a far-fetched objection, since the agreements do not ban non-union contractors from vying for jobs. (In fact, that's one reason some more radical unionists say PLAs do too little to advance labor's cause.)"

The governor vowed to veto the bill unless the Legislature recalled it from her desk and revised it to the initial version or adopted "language that would ensure that union workers, employee-owned businesses, and small businesses could all benefit."

Wind turbine ports run by union labor could help Maine be leader in climate, industry

By Dan Neumann - Maine Beacon, June 19, 2023

A bill introduced by Gov. Janet Mills that would create visual impact standards for future offshore wind projects has passed the Maine Legislature and is on its way to her desk. 

Advocates are describing the amended version of the bill as “groundbreaking,” as it now includes requirements that any port facilities that are built to support offshore wind energy in Maine include strong labor, community benefit and environmental standards.

Proponents say the changes would put Maine in a strong position to attract federal funding for future ports as President Joe Biden signed an executive order last year prioritizing federal funding for large-scale builds that include project labor agreements (PLAs). PLAs ensure construction is done by union workers making a prevailing wage determined to be livable. 

However, it remains to be seen if Mills will support the final legislation. A conservative Democrat who has sided with business interests over workers on several proposals since taking office in 2019, Mills has so far been non-committal about her position on the proposed labor standards.

“A broad coalition of working people and environmental advocates have come together to support the creation of a new industry in Maine that can help us combat climate change, create good jobs and support coastal communities,” Francis Eanes, director of the Maine Labor Climate Council, said in a statement last week. “We are grateful for the strong support we’ve seen in the Legislature, and we are hopeful that Gov. Mills will support this groundbreaking step forward on one of her most high-profile priorities.”

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