Minnesota Construction Unions Demand Local Jobs for Local Workers on Renewable Energy Projects

Jul 29 2017

Red Wing, Minnesota. (July 28, 2017) – Leaders of Minnesota’s Building Trades unions today called on the developers of renewable energy projects to commit to the creation of high-quality jobs for Minnesota workers and use of responsible contractors, as part of an action involving construction union leaders and members from across the state.

The unions, which represent tens of thousands of skilled construction workers statewide, are critical of renewable developer EDF Renewable Energy for “betraying local workers” by hiring a general contractor that apparently relies heavily on out-of-state workers to build Red Pine Wind, a 200 MW windfarm that is currently under construction west of Marshall, MN.

Union construction workers assembled on the morning of Friday, July 28, at Treasure Island Casino, during the Minnesota Building Trades’ 71st Annual Convention, to make a show of solidarity before voting for a strongly-worded resolution calling for the commitment of owners and developers of renewable energy projects to employ local workers and provide area standard wages and benefits.

“Whether it’s taconite, precious metals or wind, we believe that Minnesota’s natural resources should be used to put Minnesotans to work,” said Harry Melander, President of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council. “We have the most skilled and productive construction workforce in the country, and there’s no excuse for bringing in hundreds of out-of-state workers to take food off our tables."

“I spent half a year building Prairie Rose Windfarm,” said Garritt Thomssen, a member of Operating Engineers Local 49 from Lake Benton, MN. “There were dozens of locals on that project, and I thought Red Pine would be the same. But you look at the license plates: California, Oregon, Texas. To be honest, I can’t think of a single person from our area working on the project. We’ve got skilled labor and we need the jobs, so I don’t understand why EDF would shut us out.” “Wind power is not a new frontier anymore. Local workers have as much experience as anyone,” according to Jim Nichols, a former State Senator and leading renewable energy advocate who also lives in Lake Benton. “Companies that want to leverage Minnesota’s wind resources can’t ignore the potential contributions of local workers. If you want to be a good steward, you need to look out for local communities and workers as well as the environment.

The unions hope that by standing together they will encourage developers to prioritize the creation of high-quality job opportunities on future renewable energy projects. “Local people just want to work,” said Roger Krueger, a local farmer and construction laborer who lives in Tracy, MN. “These are projects that we should all be proud of, but it’s hard to be proud of something you can’t be a part of.”

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Renewable Energy Resolution to MN Building Trades 71st Convention

Whereas wind, solar, and other sources of renewable energy account for a rapidly growing share of energy production in Minnesota and across the nation; and Whereas unions affiliated with the Minnesota Building Trades have assisted in the growth of the renewable energy industry through support for renewable energy projects and policies that promote the further development of the industry; and

Whereas union members affiliated with the Minnesota Building Trades have invested in the growth of the renewable energy industry through our affiliated labor-management pension funds; and

Whereas Minnesota’s construction industry provides family-supporting employment and careers to tens of thousands of local skilled workers; and Whereas wind, solar, and other renewable energy projects have the potential to create family-supporting jobs and careers for skilled local construction workers, especially in parts of Greater Minnesota where jobs that offer family-supporting pay and benefits are in short supply; and

Whereas the use of skilled union labor to build renewable energy projects can help to offset some of the negative workforce impacts of conventional power plant closures, and make it easier for workers who have pursued careers in the conventional power industry to transition to other family-supporting employment; and

Whereas these benefits have already been realized on many renewable energy projects where the developers and owners selected responsible contractors that employ local union labor; and

Whereas these potential benefits are lost when developers and owners of renewable energy projects select nonunion contractors that rely largely on out-of-state workers, denying needed employment opportunities to local workers; and

Whereas Minnesota’s construction workforce is among the most skilled and productive in the nation, and is more than capable of meeting demand for renewable energy construction; Therefore be it resolved that the Minnesota Building Trades and its affiliated unions call on renewable energy developers, project owners, an investors to commit to hire local skilled workers, and employ responsible contractors that provide area standard wages and benefits and maintain safe workplaces; and

Be it further resolved that, while the Minnesota Building Trades and its affiliated unions will continue to support renewable energy projects that we believe will create high-quality jobs for local skilled construction workers, we will oppose future projects that we believe will largely exclude local workers from construction employment opportunities or put workers at risk as a result of unsafe or unfair employment practices.