Local 49 as well as a coalition of labor unions and clean energy advocates prevailed today as the Minnesota Public Utilities commission (PUC) voted unanimously to place the site permit decision on hold for the controversial Bitter Root RES Wind Project in an attempt to address the issue of labor outsourcing on Minnesota construction workers.
Labor officials and clean energy advocates spoke out at a rally today at the PUC against the outsourcing of wind energy construction jobs, and held a press conference calling on the PUC to withhold the permit for the Bitter Root Wind Energy Project. The PUC decided to place the permit on hold, and they will now move forward with a contested case proceeding. The parties involved, with the assistance of the Department of Labor, will work to address the issues brought up today at the hearing in an attempt to resolve this before the contested case proceeding.
RES Americas, which needed PUC approval to build the 150 megawatt Bitter Root Wind in Yellow Medicine County, relies heavily on out-of-state worker to build wind energy projects and has played a game of “bait-and-switch” with Minnesota workers.
Jason George, Local 49 Business Manager, said during the press conference, “We have a long history of building the energy infrastructure in this state with local and skilled trade workers. That’s the standard that we have for any new industry that comes here. If the renewable energy industry wants to expand here, which we support, they need to meet that standard. They can’t use national contractors to bring in workers from other states that pay less than what we make here in area wage standards. When they outsource jobs it results in displacing local workers that earn a good wage here in Minnesota, that’s not right, and I don’t think Minnesotans support that.”
An analysis of Bitter Root Wind prepared by North Star Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, found that the project could result in a net loss of jobs and millions of dollars in economic development by crowding out competing wind energy projects that might have put more Minnesotans to work.
Clean energy advocates – including Melissa Hortman, incoming Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, and Blue Green Alliance, whose members include Sierra Club, and other leading environmental organizations – have also criticized outsourcing of clean energy jobs and urged the PUC to put the project on hold.
Photo: (from left)
Chris Chantry, Metro Area Public Sector Business Agent, Tom Thompson, Metro Area Business Agent, Jason George, Local 49 Business Manager, Steve Piper, Southwest Metro Business Agent, Ferlin Miller, Southeast Metro Business Agent, Nathan Sogge, Northwest Metro Business Agent, and Victor Ruzynski, North Metro Business Agent.