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The content of this post was published in the August 2023 edition of the I.B.E.W. Government Affairs Newsletter, and is reprinted with permission.
New Initiative Targets Investments, Workforce Growth in Key Cities
With a $2 million grant from the Biden administration and a new state law promoting wind development, Baltimore Local 24 is on the leading edge of the growth potential of offshore wind power.
The Biden administration sees offshore wind development as critical in decarbonizing the electric grid — and the grant is among billions of dollars available to unions, private companies, colleges, and other organizations training workers nationwide to build renewable energy projects and repair aging infrastructure.
The emphasis on training and connecting workers to jobs is critical to the Biden-Harris agenda and key to recently enacted laws like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.
Maryland’s state legislature approved a bill in April to increase its offshore wind capacity to 8.5 gigawatts by2031, which is enough to power 6.3 million homes. Energy developers Orsted and US Wind plan to build offshore turbines 20 miles off the coast of Ocean City by 2026.
The grant will help beef up training for building offshore wind turbines, like water safety, CPR, and working correctly over heights. Although IBEW apprenticeships include training in many subjects, “we don’t typically work over water,” said Local 24 Membership Development Specialist Rico Albacarys.
IBEW apprentices already complete several years of supervised work experience and up to 1,000 hours of classroom training to achieve journey-level status. This global wind organization training will be a required add-on certification for the trades. “Everyone that works on the turbines will need it,” Albacarys said. “Offshore wind is a big deal for us locally.”
Now is the time for workforce training, said Baltimore Electrical JATC Training Director Neil Wilford.
The Biden administration designated Baltimore a workforce hub to provide more significant opportunities for residents and underrepresented communities to advance in good jobs and careers in growth industries. Wilford said the IBEW is among several training providers to receive federal grants through the state, including ironworkers, operating engineers, and carpenters.
To capitalize on this moment, Local 24 hired an organizer whose primary responsibility is increasing outreach to city residents, channeling those interested in pre-apprenticeships that give participants exposure to the trades and special consideration for apprenticeships, Albacarys said.
Crews are retrofitting the former Bethlehem Steel plant at Sparrows Point to produce “monopiles,” the ocean-floor bases to which the turbine towers will be secured. Production is set to start in 2025, US Wind said. The site will also stage towers and blades before moving to the offshore construction site.
As funding made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act moves through government channels, the Biden administration selected 16 cities for similar workforce development initiatives.
Yesterday LU24 Agent Rico Albacarys represented not only us but all of Labor on Capital Hill at the 1-year anniversary celebration of the Inflation Reduction Act, which has already created many clean energy jobs for American workers.
As Rico says in his speech, these jobs “…will provide for American families for decades to come.” Great work, Brother Albacarys!
Check out his speech here – Rico takes the podium at 35:45 of the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW7ahNYn1aI
American workers and our unions are the key to building a new energy economy, and we are ready to get to work.Rico Albacarys, Local 24 Political Director
Sometimes members ask why their union wants them to support and participate in political activism. On Monday, May 8, 2023, union members in Maryland got a clear example of how political activism benefits them when Governor Wes Moore signed House Bill 2.
With his signature and the hard work of the Maryland State & DC AFL-CIO and its affiliates, Maryland’s workers finally regained the ability to subtract their union dues on their state income taxes (without itemizing). This shows that the state understands union dues are an investment in the working class. This is a victory for workers throughout Maryland and the State Federation’s coordinated campaign made it possible.
IBEW Local 24’s leadership and members joined the State Federation and other affiliated unions in the years-long fight to restore this benefit for years after Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act removed it. This session, like last year, the House of Delegates put a cap on the subtraction and through our collective campaign of emails, calls and signs we were able to have the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and the full Senate remove the cap and pass the bill as introduced.
Local 24 IBEW is proud to take part in Union Night in Annapolis, when our members engage with Maryland’s elected officials and express support or opposition for legislation that is being considered by the General Assembly.
Union Night is an annual event organized by the Metro Baltimore Council AFL-CIO and the Baltimore/D.C. Building Trades Union. It brings together members of many unions, both public and private sector.
Check out the flyer below for more information. Local 24 provides buses for transport from the union hall to Lawyer’s Mall. You can sign up TODAY using our online form or by calling the Hall at 410 247-5511.
Union members worked together across the labor movement to win many important victories for working people last year. We secured historic funding and investment in our nation’s infrastructure, saved our pensions, and unleashed a wave of union organizing.
Passing pro-worker laws will strengthen us at the bargaining table so we can care for ourselves and our families.
Union members need to be talking to each other about the issues so we can work together to advance our shared agenda. That’s why we’re asking: “What do you care about?” Right now, it might be your cost of living, as we all experience skyrocketing prices at the gas station and in the grocery store. The graphic below illustrates some of the factors leading to rising costs, and how a working people’s agenda can help fix them.
You can tell us what your priorities are in less than 5 minutes. Complete the survey and together we can improve the lives of working people across the country!
Congressman David Trone, who represents Maryland’s 6th District, was in Cumberland earlier this week to tour IBEW Local 307’s training center. Local 24 Business Manager Mike McHale joined Congressman Trone and Rodney Rice, business manager for Local 307, to discuss work opportunities in Frederick and Washington counties.
As an advocate for apprenticeships and a supporter of the IBEW, Rep. Trone has made it a point to tour several of the IBEW/NECA training centers in Maryland. He is a familiar face to the IBEW’s local leaders in and near his district, and has established strong lines of communication with them.
In addition to his notable support of unions and working families, Rep. Trone has prioritized helping families with addiction issues. Visit Congressman Trone’s website to find out more.
On the eve of President Biden’s State of the Union address to the nation, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen has released a summary of key accomplishments for labor delivered by President Biden and Congress. It outlines significant progress and gains for union workers in several areas, as reprinted below.
Protecting pensions: The American Rescue Plan included vitally needed relief for multiemployer pension plans that were facing insolvency.
• The program will provide an estimated $94 billion in assistance to more than 200 eligible plans that are severely underfunded, preventing pension cuts for 1.3 million Americans.
• These protections help promote the continued availability of multiemployer pensions for the 10 million Americans in these plans.
Creating infrastructure jobs with high labor standards: This landmark investment in our nation’s infrastructure creates good-paying union jobs for workers across the country.
• Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements ensure that these jobs come with fair pay.
• President Biden’s executive order implementing the law prioritizes “prevailing wages and the free and fair chance to join a union.”
Mandating project labor agreements: President Biden signed an executive order at a union training center requiring the use of Project Labor Agreements for federal construction projects over $35 million.
• Project labor agreements are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements that set standards for all workers on a project, which alleviates coordination challenges that can stymie progress.
• This order is estimated to cover $262 billion in federal government construction contracting and improve job quality for the nearly 200,000 workers on federal construction contracts.
Expanding quality apprenticeships: President Biden and Congress expanded apprenticeships and reversed efforts to weaken quality controls for apprenticeship programs.
• The bipartisan infrastructure law includes new funding for apprenticeships to create pipelines for workers into union jobs.
• President Biden repealed an executive order from President Trump that would have weakened apprenticeship standards with a new category of “Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs” that lacked the rigor of traditional registered apprenticeships.
Strengthening Buy American rules: New requirements will ensure that federal investments are carried out with American manufacturing and workers.
• President Biden signed an executive order to increase the domestic content requirements for federal procurement, and to strengthen domestic supply chains for critical products.
• The bipartisan infrastructure law includes comprehensive Buy American requirements for iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials.
Repealing anti-union executive orders: President Biden repealed several anti-union executive orders issued by President Trump that targeted federal employees.
• One of the repealed executive orders would have eliminated civil service protections for workers classified under a new “Schedule F”.
• Three other repealed executive orders had sharply limited the Official Time with which unions can represent workers, curtailed the collective bargaining process, and reduced protections against unwarranted discipline or termination.
Standing up for workers: When he came into office, President Biden signed an executive order stating that it is the policy of the federal government to, “encourage union organizing and collective bargaining.” Since then, President Biden and Congress have taken action to ensure that the laws on the books to protect workers are actually enforced on the job site.
• Marty Walsh, a longtime union member and leader, is now the Secretary of Labor.
• David Prouty and Gwynne Wilcox are now Members of the National Labor Relations Board, and NLRB has acted more strongly to protect workers under their leadership.
• President Biden fired the Trump-appointed General Counsel at the NLRB, Peter Robb, who used his position to attack workers and unions. The new General Counsel is Jennifer Abruzzo, who brings union experience to the role and is already taking action to reinvigorate NLRB enforcement of laws prohibiting unfair labor practices.
• The American Rescue Plan included $200 million in new funding for the agencies charged with enforcing worker protection laws, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Wage and Hour Division, and the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.
Developing a comprehensive action plan to support workers: President Biden created the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, which released a report providing 70 recommendations approved by President Biden that promote worker organizing and collective bargaining. These actions, all of which are consistent with laws already on the books, include the following:
• Making sure that workers know their rights to organize and bargain collectively.
• Doing more to protect workers against retaliation for organizing.
• Ensuring that federal contractors do not spend taxpayer dollars on anti-union campaigns.
• Using the Department of Labor to provide resources on the advantages of unionization, for the use of any agency, worker, or business seeking to communicate the benefits of worker organizing.
There is nothing more fundamental in a democracy than a right to vote. At this moment, that right – and our democracy itself – is under attack. In a recent letter to all IBEW members, International President Lonnie Stephenson urged everyone to raise their voices to protect voting rights.
The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are pieces of legislation would protect the right of every American to cast our vote and have that vote counted.
Stephenson’s message said “We are not going to sit on the sidelines and wait for members of Congress to get around to passing it— and that’s where you come in. Please go to IBEWaction.org and call your member of the Senate and ask them for their commitment to vote on the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
As IBEW Secretary-Treasurer Kenny Cooper has said, your member of Congress tolerates our staff in Washington. But they care about their constituents. Now is the time once again to make the voice of the IBEW heard on Capitol Hill.”
President Biden spent the day dedicated to workers with members of the IBEW.
Along with IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson, President Biden delivered sandwiches to members of Wilmington, DE Local 313 on Labor Day, Sept. 6.
He played cornhole and chatted with about 35 members of the local union. An article about the event described a moment when “the president began talking into an iPhone to a union member’s mom, telling her that he’d been with the union since he was first elected to public office in the early 1970s.”
“I’m with your son,” Biden said. “Mom, I wish you were here. I just stopped by to thank these guys. Happy Labor Day.”
IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson called Biden “a longtime friend of working families and the IBEW.”
Stephenson wrote in February 2020, “Joe Biden has listened to IBEW members, and his energy policy has been shaped by deep, meaningful conversations with the professionals who will build and maintain the energy grid of the future.”
Biden’s interest in getting IBEW members’ point of view was further evidenced when Local 24 member Cory McCray, a state senator in the Maryland General Assembly, was recently invited to the White House.
Read the IBEW’s BUILDING AMERICA BACK BETTER newsletter for the whole story.