Offshore wind projects should commit to use union labor.

Offshore wind projects should commit to use union labor. Credit: Getty Images/Monty Rakusen

The rapidly growing renewable energy industry brings with it a wave of possibility for the type of good-paying careers that can support families and uplift entire communities. New York’s unions remain committed to collaborating with state leaders, and supporting projects that bolster our economy while building a diverse workforce. The right offshore wind project can ensure Long Island maintains and grows beautiful communities we are proud to call home. But none of this is possible without the inclusion of union voices.

Unions have long played a vital role in our communities by protecting workers’ rights and fighting for just labor conditions. New York’s emerging clean energy industry should be no exception. As the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority continues to select offshore wind projects to power New York homes, the state should consider whether companies putting forth proposals have proved their commitment to union labor.

Orsted/Eversource, which is building the South Fork wind farm off Montauk, showed its commitment by funding the creation of a training institute for labor in Suffolk County. Community Offshore Wind, a joint venture between RWE and National Grid in waters off the coasts of New York and New Jersey known as the New York Bight, demonstrated this commitment through its project labor agreement with New York State Building and Construction Trades and plans to use union labor across its project.

Worker’s rights must be front and center, with projects ensuring fair wages for the entire ecosystem that supports offshore wind, including onshore construction and supply chain facilities. This undertaking requires an ambitious and all-inclusive approach toward workforce recruitment, training, and retention, along with a firm commitment to the community that extends beyond the turbines. The goal is to use a community workforce model that dovetails off our existing pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs supporting the Building and Construction Trades Council.

Achieving a renewable energy future begins with building the massive workforce these projects demand, including industry-leading training and education programs. Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced critical new funding streams for the National Offshore Wind Training Institute at Farmingdale State College, which is providing innovative training programs supporting this highly skilled workforce. When this institute joins forces with the National Offshore Wind Training Center in Brentwood, which is providing proprietary safety training for Orsted/Eversource, Long Island will have the capability to develop a better, safer, and highly skilled labor force for this flourishing industry.

Offshore wind has the potential to preserve long-standing union jobs local to Long Island. Community Offshore Wind intends to repurpose a portion of the E.F. Barrett power plant site in Island Park to add clean energy infrastructure like battery storage. This protects union jobs on the South Shore by transitioning to a renewable energy model providing potential tax revenue to Island Park, Long Beach, and other neighboring communities. This approach serves as an example for future offshore wind endeavors, aligning economic prosperity with environmental stewardship.

A strong offshore wind industry will make a stronger Long Island. We see the shift in our state’s energy policy on infrastructure from the standard established more than a century ago. Seizing this moment ensures that careers are spread throughout Long Island’s towns, stimulating growth, attracting new residents to live here, and fostering a long-lasting sense of community supporting our future.

This guest essay reflects the views of Matthew Aracich, president of the National Offshore Wind Training Center and president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau & Suffolk Counties.

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