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Landmark Bill Becoming Law to Improve Quality of Renewable Energy Jobs

Andy O’Brien
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LD 1969, the Maine Climate Jobs bill, applies strong labor and equity standards to most utility-scale renewable energy projects and will go into effect in January 2023

The Maine AFL-CIO and the Maine Labor Climate Council applaud the passage of the most substantive public policy advancement to improve the quality of renewable energy jobs in Maine history. Governor Mills has allowed LD 1969, sponsored by Rep. Scott Cuddy, to go into law without her signature. The measure will create good quality clean energy jobs and advance equity in the renewable energy sector.

“Maine is the most oil dependent state in the country. Mainers are feeling the squeeze of rising energy costs from being dependent on global oil and natural gas markets. It is long past time to develop Maine’s energy independence and build our clean energy future. This bill ensures that we build that clean energy economy with good jobs and career opportunities for all Maine workers,” said Matt Schlobohm, Executive Director of the Maine AFL-CIO.

“This is a big deal for the Maine workers and the environment,” said Cynthia Phinney, President of the Maine AFL-CIO. “As we move toward a clean energy economy to avert climate instability, it is crucial that we create high quality jobs with living wages, decent benefits, strong labor and workplace safety protections and workers’ rights. LD 1969 will help put Maine on the path of environmental sustainability and a better life for future generations of Maine workers by ensuring our energy policies are rooted in both environmental and economic justice.”

“This bill will improve workplace standards and opportunities for all workers in our fast-growing renewable energy economy,” said Francis Eanes, Executive Director of the Maine Labor Climate Council. “LD 1969 puts working people first, and shows us that we don’t have to choose between meeting our state’s ambitious climate goals and reversing 50 years of wage stagnation and rising inequality.”

"We know that building a clean energy economy and ensuring the safety and economic security of Maine's working families are not — and must never be — mutually exclusive,” said Jason J. Shedlock, President of the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council and Regional Organizer for the Laborers' International Union. "Make no mistake, LD 1969 is a and says the quiet part out loud: low road developers and their preferred contractors may have had a good run, but it's game over. Energy work in Maine can and will be done responsibly with union labor." 

“As a registered Apprenticeship I'm receiving a fantastic education and earning a paycheck while I’m learning. The only costs I incur each year are for my books,” said Kilton Webb, an electrical apprentice with IBEW 567 electrical apprentice. “This new law will address climate change in a way that builds a diverse, highly trained workforce with collective bargaining agreements that provide good wages, benefits and a voice on the job.”

LD 1969 requires contractors on large, utility-scale renewable energy projects (e.g., solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, hydro, etc) to pay prevailing wages, which ensure that workers are paid decent wages and benefits that are customary for each occupation in an industry. The measure also helps working class Mainers access clean energy careers by building out a system for developing and utilizing pre-apprenticeship programs, which prepare workers for direct entry into registered apprenticeship programs and advance equity.

 Finally, the measure incentivizes the use of Projects Labor Agreements and employee ownership on renewable energy construction projects. The bill directs the Maine Public Utilities Commission to consider these factors when procuring energy under Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Project labor agreements — a pre-hire negotiated agreement laying out terms and conditions on a project — ensure that projects are completed on time and under budget using a ready supply of skilled labor paid living wages with benefits. PLAs require strong labor standards regarding wages, hours, working conditions and dispute resolution methods. 

 This recent win in Maine is part of a growing, labor-led movement to tackle the climate crisis and create good union jobs. The new measure brings Maine in line with states across the country, and particularly in New England, that have passed strong labor and equity standards to make sure that jobs in the renewable energy sector are high-quality, good-paying jobs with the training and safety standards that unions deliver.

LD 1969 passed the Maine House 81 - 59 on a party line voteon April 13. It passed the Senate 21-13 on a party line vote on April 19th, and went into law without the Governor’s signature on Monday April 25. LD 1969 will go into effect in January 2023.