IBEW Organizer Looks to Unionize Green Industry
by The Electrical Worker, Wed Mar 17, 2010 at 09:40:26 AM EDT
There are not many union locals with an environmental organizer on staff.
But because the renewable energy industry is a growth sector in a slow economy, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569 in San Diego is sparing no effort to make sure jobs working with green technology are pathways to good-paying careers.
In a recent interview with CleanTechies blog, Local 569 Environmental Organizer Micah Mitrosky talks about her job:
Our mission is to make sure that as our economy shifts to a low-carbon, sustainable economy, that we’re creating middle-class jobs with health benefits, skilled career opportunities … We want to make sure that, as we’re bringing in these new greener technologies and new green ways of doing things, that we’re replacing those with better middle-class career opportunities.
While most of the economy contracted last year, the renewable energy sector saw record growth and is gearing up for an even bigger year in 2010. And thanks to Local 569’s commitment to aggressive marketing and advanced training, it has successfully been making inroads into the green energy industry.
As reported in the March issue of the Electrical Worker, the IBEW's monthly newspaper:
(D)espite a sluggish construction market, the alternative energy sector—particularly solar photovoltaics—continues to be a vibrant and growing part of California's economy and it is keeping members of Local 569 busy.
"Without all the solar work, our unemployment rate would be twice as a high," says Local 569 Business Manager Allen Shur.
More than 10 percent of the 2,200-member local are busy installing and maintaining solar panels on commercial projects. Solar power has even allowed the local to crack the traditionally nonunion residential market.
"One of our contractors did more than 800 homes alone," Shur said.
Mitrosky, a former Sierra Club organizer, says she faces many of the same challenges that confront most union organizers.
We’re running into the same things with (the) industry that we’ve always run into. They’re working hard to keep wages low, offshore jobs, cut corners on safety if it means a few cents more in profits. It’s the same old story that unions have faced for a century.
But despite the obstacles, she says she is hopeful about the growing partnership between the alternative energy industry and the IBEW.
We’re looking at the electric car. I know that’s going to require a lot of skilled electrical work … I’m looking at some energy efficiency retrofit possibilities. Are there some ways to partner with municipalities here in our region? Energy efficiency is the low-hanging fruit. It’s a way to create jobs quickly, save electricity right away, reduce your greenhouse gases and there’s a lot of public funds and utility funds available for that.
To read the whole interview, click here.