Massachusetts Wind Farm’s Union Priority at Odds With Workforce Diversity

The $2.8 billion project will use exclusively union labor, making diversity a difficulty.

Source : Wikimedia Commons

August 23, 2021

Author : Alex Bustillos

On May 11, the Biden Administration’s Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, and the Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, announced the approval of the construction of the Vineyard Wind project. The press release called it the “first large-scale, offshore wind project in the United States.”

The 84-turbine, 800-megawatt project will be located some 12 nautical miles off of Martha’s Vineyard and is expected to power 400,000 homes. It will also create 3,600 jobs.

“A clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States. The approval of this project is an important step toward advancing the Administration's goals to create good-paying union jobs while combatting climate change and powering our nation,” Secretary Haaland said at the time.

Responding to the news, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said that “Massachusetts should be proud that this decision launches the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project here on the Commonwealth’s shores.”

“This groundbreaking project will produce affordable, renewable energy, create jobs and prove Massachusetts developed a successful model for developing offshore wind energy,” Gov. Baker added. “We appreciate the federal government’s partnership to grant this approval and look forward to working with Vineyard Wind to create thousands of jobs and set the Commonwealth on a path to achieve Net Zero emissions.”

In late July, Vineyard Wind reached a labor agreement with the Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trade Council covering 500 jobs. “The workers will come from 20 local union affiliates of the regional building trades council,” reports South Coast Today.

The company and the union association also agreed that 10 percent of the workforce should be women, 20 percent people of color, and 51 percent from local counties.

But a new article in Energy News raises an important issue. As the article notes, most unionized building trade workers are white, and most minority-owned contractors are not unionized.

“What Vineyard Wind has done is not just shut but slammed the door tight on any meaningful participation by minority contractors,” John Cruz, chief executive of a local black-owned contracting company, told the outlet.

With the lack of diversity of Massachusetts women, will Vineyard Wind be able to meet its minority participation goals? On the whole, unions in the state are diversifying, and training programs are now more diverse than ever, with minorities accounting for 30 percent of apprenticeships according to a statewide association cited by Energy News. Vineyard Wind is also working towards increasing this trend, putting up $500,00 for a training program called Building Pathways which works towards getting minorities into apprenticeships.

But none of this is happening quick enough, with Vineyard Wind expected to start delivering energy in 2023.

Can Vineyard Winds pull it off? We’ll let you know as the project takes shape.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Category : Minority Business Enterprises Diversity Outreach Federal Government Green Economy Green Construction Labor Public Works

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