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Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA)

UAW members testify in favor of just energy transition office legislation

By Kyle Davidson - Michigan Advance, September 21, 2023

As Democratic lawmakers continue pushing on policy to transition Michigan to clean energy sources, members of the state Senate Labor Committee heard testimony Thursday on a bill to ensure workers are not left behind in a switch to renewables. 

Senate Bill 519, introduced by State Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), would create a community and worker economic transition office within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO). The office would seek to aid workers and communities whose jobs are impacted in the transition from fossil fuel energy to renewable sources. 

As Michigan begins to move away from coal, energy utilities have done a good job of helping workers through the transition to new technology and avoiding large layoffs, Singh said. However, concerns about the future of Michigan’s energy transition remain.

“I think we’re always concerned whenever you’re making a transition that you should have a system in place that makes sure that we are protecting workers,” Singh said.

Harbor Commissioners Approve ‘Once in a Generation’ Project Labor Agreement for Humboldt Offshore Wind Terminal Project; Union Reps Laud Unanimous Decision

Text and images by Isabella Vanderheiden - Lost Coast Outpost, August 11, 2023

Local contractors and labor union members packed Eureka’s Wharfinger Building Thursday night to give the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Board of Commissioners their two cents on a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the Humboldt Offshore Wind Terminal Project that could guarantee local jobs for years to come.

The PLA outlines the general terms and conditions for labor employment affiliated with the first stages of port development on Humboldt Bay. The agreement has sparked opposition from some local construction companies that run non-union shops as it will require non-union workers to pay toward the union trust fund.

The Harbor District has spent the last year working with members of the Humboldt-Del Norte County Building and Construction Trades Council, the State Building and Construction Trade Council of the State of California, and other local labor representatives to develop the agreement, which is required by federal law. The contractors and subcontractors who are awarded contracts to work on the heavy lift marine terminal will be subject to the provisions of the agreement, including no-strike, no-lock-out clauses to eliminate delays associated with labor unrest. 

“This is an agreement between the district and the labor unions that we’re going to have a smooth labor transition and that there’s going to be no disruption to the workforce,” said Larry Oetker, executive director of the Harbor District. “But in return, there are some hiring stipulations that are included in [the document].”

The agreement details hiring priorities for “disadvantaged workers,” or local residents who, prior to the project, experienced barriers to employment, as noted in section 2.9.

Nevada shows states how to build workforce for solar energy boom

By Kaleb Roedel, KUNR & Elizabeth Miller, Climate Central - Grist, August 6, 2023

In northern Nevada, east of Reno, a mountainous desert unfolds like a pop-up book. Wild horses on hillsides stand still as toys. Green-grey sagebrush paints the sandy land, which is baking under the summer sun.

On a 10-acre slice of this desert, people are working to turn this sunshine into paychecks. As society phases out fossil fuels and builds huge new solar energy plants, this region is grabbing a share of that green gold rush by retraining workers for work that is spreading across the West.

At this training center for the Reno branch of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Francisco Valenzuela uses a wrench to secure brackets to a long steel tube on posts about four feet off the ground. What looks like the start of a giant erector set is the support structure common on large-scale solar farms.

“The brackets, they hold the panels and we set it up,” said Valenzuela.

A few years ago, Valenzuela did electrical work for a solar project not far from here – the 60-megawatt Turquoise Solar Farm. Now, he’s gaining more skills so he can land more jobs. The 43-year-old is originally from Sonora, Mexico, but lives in Reno for trade jobs in northern Nevada. He has two kids in Las Vegas and visits when work is slow.

“You stay busy the whole year working,” he said.

It’s good pay, too, he added, with some companies paying $20 to $30 an hour, or more.

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.

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.”

Biden’s CHIPS Act Isn’t Doing Enough For Labor, Despite Anti-Labor Liberal Critics

Trades key to coalition winning new clean energy bill signed by Governor Walz

By Steve Share - Minneapolis Labor Review, February 25, 2023

Labor unions and environmental groups joined with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and legislative leaders February 7 for a bill-signing ceremony at the Saint Paul Labor Center to celebrate historic clean energy legislation.

The bill, Senate File 4, puts Minnesota on a path to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 — while creating new clean energy jobs.

“Our children are counting on us to get this right,” said Governor Walz, addressing the packed meeting room at the Labor Center. “We can’t move too fast when it comes to addressing climate change.”

“It’s our skilled trades who are going to be building this future,” Walz emphasized.

Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, in her remarks, noted that “a very strong coalition” worked to pass the bill, including labor, environmentalists, and young people.

“We have a climate crisis and we need to take action to address it,” she said.

“Today’s action is the strongest action Minnesota has taken on climate change. Full stop,” declared Representative Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis), who was the chief author of the bill in the Minnesota House.

In Maine, coalition works to make sure organized labor has role in offshore wind

By Sarah Shemkus - Energy News, February 1, 2023

A group of environmental and labor organizations want a state offshore wind advisory committee in its final plan to include more specific language recommending project labor and labor peace agreements.

As Maine comes close to finalizing its roadmap for the development of offshore wind, a coalition of labor and environmental groups is asking the state to strengthen its commitment to supporting union jobs in the burgeoning industry. 

A group of 12 environmental and labor organizations has sent a letter to the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap Advisory Committee asking that the final plan, expected by early February, incorporate explicit language recommending the use of project labor agreements and labor peace agreements as the offshore wind sector develops in Maine. Many of the same advocates are supporting a bill, announced by Democratic state Sen. Mark Lawrence last month, that would require union labor agreements on offshore wind projects. 

“Organized labor needs to be a crucial part of this investment,” said Kelt Wilska, energy justice manager for Maine Conservation Voters. “And we need to make sure working families, both coastal and inland, benefit from this.”

As states from New England down to North Carolina work on their own plans for implementing offshore wind projects, Maine is expected to be a major player in the growing industry. With strong, consistent winds, the Gulf of Maine is widely considered to be one of the most promising areas for offshore wind development.

Maine convened its Offshore Wind Roadmap Advisory Committee in July 2021 with the mission of creating an economic development plan for the fast-emerging industry. The panel — which includes 25 members representing state and municipal governments, private business, community and environmental nonprofits, and organized labor — released its draft plan in early December. 

The document outlines strategies for investing in infrastructure and workforce development; reducing costs and increasing resilience through renewable power; advancing Maine-based innovation; and protecting and supporting the seafood industry, coastal communities and the ocean ecosystem. Labor and environmental groups have praised much of the plan, particularly its focus on comprehensive planning, workforce and supply chain investment, and environmental monitoring and mitigation. 

Industrial Policy Without Industrial Unions

By Lee Harris - The American Prospect, September 28, 2022

In August, as President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, pledging to build American semiconductor factories, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker posed on the White House lawn, flanked by the chief executives of vehicle companies Ford, Lion Electric, and Rivian. Thanks to billions of dollars in federal and state investments, Pritzker said, his constituents could expect a manufacturing revival, and “good-paying, union jobs.”

Illinois is refashioning itself as a center for electric vehicle (EV) production and a cluster of related industries, such as microchips. The state just passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, its flagship industrial-policy plan, and has passed MICRO, a complement to federal CHIPS subsidies. Pritzker is hungry for Chicago to host the upcoming Democratic convention and take a victory lap at factory openings.

But he may have to trot out non-union autoworkers at the ribbon cuttings.

Ford, a “Big Three” union automaker, boasts that the F-150 is a “legendary union-built vehicle,” but battery production is being outsourced to non-union shops. Bus producer Lion Electric is under pressure to use organized labor, but has yet to make public commitments on allowing a union election without interference. Electric-truck startup Rivian, which is 18 percent owned by Amazon, has been plagued by workplace injuries and labor violations. Illinois’s attorney general recently uncovered a scheme to renovate its downstate plant with workers brought in from Mexico, who were cheated out of overtime pay.

Democrats are giddy about the arrival of green industrial policy. With last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law, CHIPS, and the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Congress has poured money into setting off green growth. The main messaging behind this policy is that government investment can create attractive jobs, and a new political base, by manufacturing the clean technologies of the future.

If you squint, you could almost mistake the IRA’s robust Buy American provisions for worker protections. They are often mentioned in the same sentence. But while new spending is likely to onshore manufacturing, it largely lacks provisions ensuring that those new jobs will adhere to high-road labor standards, let alone that they will be unionized.

Instead, the political logic of the bill is a gamble. The energy sector is still dominated by oil and gas. To accelerate the transition, it will be necessary to create large countervailing industries. After decades of offshoring, the first aim for green manufacturing is to make sure that it happens here at all. The IRA alone could produce as many as nine million jobs over the next decade, according to an analysis by University of Massachusetts Amherst and the labor-environmental coalition BlueGreen Alliance. Many of those jobs will be in old Democratic strongholds where the party is now hemorrhaging support, like mining in Nevada and auto production in the Midwest.

Supporters hope that once new green jobs are created, a mass labor coalition could follow. As Nathan Iyer, an analyst at the climate consultant RMI, told the Prospect in a recent podcast, “It’s hard to have a workers-based movement, and build workers’ power, if there are no workers.”


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