State can lead the renewable energy sector with union labor – Cape Cod Times

Around the world, scientists, activists, and governments alike are working to counteract the effects of climate change. The urgent need for such efforts can create new economic activity across the globe, and closer to home. Just this past month, the Department of the Interior finished its review of the Vineyard Wind offshore wind farm.

Massachusetts now has a clear path to succeed in one of its critical sectors: offshore wind. And by prioritizing union labor, we can chart a course toward clean, renewable energy that also puts Bay State families first.

With more than 1,519 miles of accessible coastline, our state is home to countless prime locations for offshore wind turbines, enough to power thousands of homes and businesses. Moreover, while traditional wind turbine technology can take up valuable farmland, offshore wind uses natural wind patterns to generate sustainable energy without jeopardizing our other key industries.

With the environmental review completed, our prime location provides Massachusetts with a massive opportunity: to be the first major offshore wind project in the country. The Vineyard Wind Offshore Wind project is forecast to generate 800 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 400,000 homes. In the interim, the project would power the economy and bring great jobs to the Bay State when it is built off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

For offshore wind projects to succeed, they require workers who have the technical expertise and world-class training to effectively manage high-stress situations. Similar to offshore drilling, offshore wind turbines are built in the middle of the ocean, miles from shore. 

Nothing beats the union standard when it comes to workplace safety and technical skill. Union workers are required to graduate from rigorous, certified training programs to make sure the job gets done right and done safely. Study after study has shown that union workers make for more efficient and successful projects. That’s the results-driven workforce we need to make Massachusetts’ wind power future a successful one.

Hiring 100% union workers for Vineyard Wind would also set a strong precedent for what good, local jobs can do for the rest of the industry. If we want green energy that works for Massachusetts and for our country, these projects must be built right here at home by the best and most highly trained workers in the world. The new industries we need to fight climate change will succeed in the long term by ensuring workers get the job security and benefits that only unions can provide.

Legislation such as the Offshore Wind Career Training Grant Program Act lays out a strong plan for building America’s economy and energy future together. The bill would provide American workers with access to green jobs training to help them succeed at projects like Vineyard Wind. As more companies look for alternatives to fossil fuels, it’s vital that our local, state and federal governments take appropriate action in planning for an economy that prioritizes American workers in the transition.

The fights for sustainable energy and for good, local jobs are one and the same. Renewable energy will help stem climate change and make sure that working-class neighborhoods no longer face toxic air pollution at the hands of less sustainable industries. And at a time when the number of Americans facing long-term unemployment rose to 4.1 million last month, renewable energy can bring new jobs, economic stimulus, and bright futures for our communities.

To make that future possible, we’ll need to build it with well-trained union workers. By hiring 100% union for Vineyard Wind, we can pave the way for the national offshore wind industry and kickstart a new energy sector that works for everyone. When we count on union workers, we put our future in the right hands.

Michael Hess is the business manager of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 7.

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