Nonunion Wind Workers Look to IBEW for Better Safety


November 25, 2013

Across the breezy expanse of Iowa, clean wind-powered energy is abundant.


But for workers in this booming industry, safety on the job can be scarce. That’s one reason why nonunion employees at the TPI Composites plant in Newton are looking to the IBEW for representation.


About 600 workers will vote in an NLRB-certified election Dec. 10 and 11 on whether to join Des Moines Local 347. The employees work 12-hour shifts molding, painting and constructing composite blades for use in high-performance wind turbines. Exposure to caustic chemicals is a daily part of the job.

IBEW lead organizer Brian Heins told the Des Moines Register this week that employees have concerns with dangerous workplace conditions, scheduling and other issues.

The paper reports that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is involved in an ongoing investigation at the facility. Records show that OSHA has slapped 16 violations on plant management in the past two years, resulting in thousands of dollars in fines.

This is not the first time workers have stood up for their rights at TPI. The Newton Daily News reported last year that the company settled a class action lawsuit brought by workers who said they were required to work off the clock, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Employees at nearby Trinity Structural Towers are helping the organizing effort. Trinity employees voted for IBEW representation, negotiated and overwhelmingly approved a contract in 2011 that guarantees better safety protections, consistent scheduling and equitable pay for weekend work.

“Since becoming a union facility, we have been able to help ensure that employees get fair opportunities,” said Local 347 shop steward  Travis Healey, a Trinity employee. “By joining together, everyone has a voice. It’s a win-win for workers and management.”


Read more from the Des Moines Register.


Photo used under a Creative Commons license courtesy of Flickr user Brooke Raymond.