An IBEW-backed bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would ensure that the country’s growing number of clean energy construction jobs will be filled by unionized electrical workers and by highly trained brothers and sisters in other union trades.
|Photo credit: Georgia Power
Nearly 1,200 IBEW members represented by Augusta, Ga., Local 1579 are working on the Plant Vogtle nuclear facility. A new bill in the U.S. Senate could help ensure that similar carbon-free power generation work across the country would to union members.
“Across North America, our members are constantly maintaining and improving an energy grid that balances baseload and renewable energy sources to achieve maximum efficiency and reliability,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “We support this and other legislative efforts to guarantee that future construction jobs in the carbon-free nuclear, wind, solar and hydroelectric sectors will be filled by educated and experienced union men and women.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon introduced the Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act on July 18. Among the bill’s provisions is language that establishes prevailing wage and project labor agreement standards for employers on clean energy generation and carbon-capture construction projects. Those employers also would be required to guarantee to fill at least 20% of their construction craft jobs with apprentices.
“As the world transitions to clean and renewable energy, America has a huge opportunity to lead that transition and to create millions of jobs in the process,” Merkley said in a statement. “We need to make sure the jobs powering our economy for the next century are good-paying, family-wage jobs.”
Additionally, Merkley’s bill calls for properly classifying workers on such construction projects and for giving individuals with criminal histories a fair chance at getting hired.
To help give employers incentives to adopt the bill’s pro-labor priorities, the bill would grant tax credits of up to 10% to companies working on qualified projects. The bill also offers those employers opportunities to apply for grants and government-backed loans.
The plan further calls for the creation of a “Clean Jobs Workforce Hub” made up of unions, employers and other interested parties, to further promote the value of the quality employee training and development programs offered by the IBEW and other unions.
“This is the right bill at the right time to fight climate change and create the kind of family-sustaining jobs our country is desperate for,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “For too long, the corporate right-wing — the polluters and the union-busters — conspired together to create a false choice: a raising wages economy or a clean environment. We can and must have both.”
Alongside the IBEW and the AFL-CIO, a number of other labor organizations and allies have endorsed Merkley’s bill, including the United Steelworkers, LiUNA, the Utility Workers Union of America and the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters.
“The IBEW remains committed to finding a balanced and climate-sensitive approach toward securing reliable and affordable electricity generation,” said Political and Legislative Affairs Director Austin Keyser. “Sen. Merkley’s bill will help guarantee that future green energy construction work will provide safe, living-wage and family-supporting jobs.
“It’s also important that as long as our electrical grid is reliant on fossil fuels, we’re leading the way in supporting carbon-capture and carbon-reducing modifications that help to minimize emissions,” Keyser added. “This bill helps do both.
Merkley's bill, which had 10 co-sponsors as of mid-August, has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, where it awaits further consideration.