The Worker Institute is leading a delegation of 15 New York labor leaders to Denmark this week to learn about the offshore wind industry.
New York state is on the verge of building its first offshore wind project and may soon become a leading center for the offshore wind industry on the East Coast of the United States, according to Worker Institute Executive Director Lara Skinner, who is leading the delegation.
“Offshore wind power is expected to play a significant role in helping New York state meet its target of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. It can also provide substantial job opportunities related to the manufacturing of offshore wind parts, the port operations needed to support offshore wind construction, as well as construction and long-term operations and maintenance for offshore wind farms. As New York positions itself to develop a robust offshore wind industry, it is presented with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that the path to a low-carbon future results in good, high-road jobs that provide family-sustaining wages and benefits for communities across the state,” Skinner said.
NYS offshore wind projects will involve a number of Danish companies. Denmark currently provides around 20 percent of its energy needs with wind power. The wind sector in Denmark is 85 percent unionized, providing high-quality employment for many Danish workers. Skinner said the educational exchange, organized by the Worker Institute, will provide New York labor leaders with a valuable opportunity, to meet with representatives of Danish unions, offshore wind companies and state officials, as well as tour key offshore wind manufacturing, port and construction sites. It will also give them the chance to learn best practices for developing a thriving and equitable offshore wind industry and clean energy economy in New York state.
The Worker Institute launched its state-focused Labor Leading on Climate initiative four years ago, bringing unions from the building trades, energy and transport sectors together to explore how climate protection policy could drive high-quality employment and economic development throughout New York state. The initiative resulted in the Worker Institute’s 2017 report, “Reversing Inequality, Combatting Climate Change: A Climate Jobs Program for New York State.” The initiative also helped spark the formation of Climate Jobs NY, a new union-led organization focused on creating good jobs in the clean energy economy.
As a result of this work, Skinner was appointed to the state’s Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group, as well as the Offshore Wind Technical Working Group and honored as an important leader in this area of work by Gov. Andrew Cuomo at an event with former Vice-President Al Gore in March.
In the past year, Cuomo has elevated the state’s commitment to building offshore wind power and creating high-quality employment in the sector. The governor recently committed to procuring 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power in 2018 and 2019 to meet his broader goal of building 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. Cuomo also announced in 2018 that all renewable energy projects would require a prevailing wage.
The Public Service Commission ruled in 2018 that the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) is authorized to require a prevailing wage, project labor agreements, labor peace and local content manufacturing requirements in its procurement of offshore wind.
“If NYSERDA includes these labor and progressive procurement standards, New York state will be the first state in the country to include standards for job quality in the production of offshore wind, solidifying the state’s commitment to building a robust and equitable offshore wind industry,” Skinner said.
The Denmark trip includes meetings with the United Federation of Danish Workers 3F, the Dansk DEF Electrical Workers Union, Dansk Metal, the Danish Society of Engineers, LO Denmark, Pension Denmark, as well as others. It will also include tours of the Offshore Wind Farm at Middelgrunden, the state-of-the-art LORC Offshore Wind Testing Facility, MHI Vestas’ Nacelle factory, and the Port of Esbjerg -- the largest offshore wind port in Europe.
The trip was organized in collaboration with Climate Jobs NY and delegates include the leaders of the New York City Central Labor Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, NYS Pipe Trades, Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2, AFSCME DC 37, Transport Workers Union Local 100, the Joint Industry Board of the Electrical Industry and representatives of SEIU, the Long Island Federation of Labor and the NYS Nurses Association.
After the trip, a report will be released highlighting lessons learned and implications for the offshore wind industry for New York state’s workforce and communities. The Worker Institute will also work with Climate Jobs NY to present on this exchange at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York City and events related to the Global Climate Action Summit in California in September.