Wind and solar energy projects have multiplied across Oregon in recent years—a necessary and important part of Oregon’s movement away from fossil fuels. However, Oregon building trades union members are often not the ones working in these jobs. An Ironworkers’ representative who tracks these projects says that since 2017 nearly all the work has gone to non-union, out-of-state firms that bring in non-union crews from outside of Oregon. These contractors are subsidized with property tax breaks from the state’s Strategic Investment Plan.
The Oregon State Building Trades Council and other union bodies are working to change this. There will be a bill in the upcoming legislative session to mandate labor standards on clean energy projects that are part of the Strategic Investment Plan program. These standards would include requirements to utilize a local workforce with set goals for hiring, training and retaining women and people of color, pay prevailing wage, and take part in apprenticeship programs. According to the NW Oregon Labor Press, as of 2019, about a dozen utility-scale wind and solar projects in NE Oregon were saving over $30 million a year thanks to the SIP property tax break. Our tax dollars should be used to create good jobs for local people.
Climate Jobs PDX, a project of Portland Jobs with Justice which works to build bridges between unions and climate activists, (and my other activist work these days) has a sign on letter supporting requirements for higher labor standards on these projects. XR PDX has signed onto this letter, which will go to state senators. Making sure these jobs go to Oregon workers, with decent labor standards, is one small step towards the transition we will need to make.