U.S. Representative Elaine Luria (VA-02) joined labor, environmental, and civic leaders for a facility tour of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 110 (UA Local 110) School in Chesapeake.
A press conference preceded the tour and featured Rep. Luria and speakers from organized labor and environmental organizations in Virginia. Along with the Congresswoman, members from BlueGreen Alliance, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, UA Local 110, Urban League of Hampton Roads, Virginia State Building and Construction Trades, and Virginia Port Authority (VPA) focused on the Central Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project as well as the importance of union apprenticeship programs and utilizing domestic content to prepare and sustain a workforce for offshore wind deployment in Virginia.
“We have huge potential to not only produce clean energy off the coast of Virginia, but to provide good jobs and diversify our economy,” said Luria. “We want these jobs to go to everyone across our community.”
Rep. Luria identified the offshore wind energy investments in the recently signed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. “The Inflation Reduction Act—that might be the name, but it’s a huge environmental bill that includes a lot of things such as the tax credits necessary to make these kinds of developments viable.”
UA Local 110, Virginia State Building and Construction Trades commented on the importance of project labor agreements. VPA Chief Development & Public Affairs Officer Cathie Vick highlighted how BIL investments were being used in relation to offshore wind at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal.
“The CVOW project is slated to be the largest project in the United States and the Portsmouth Marine Terminal is going to play a crucial role in getting this project up and running,” Vick said. “That is why we are so thankful for the $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to strengthen the U.S. offshore wind supply chain and construct staging and storage areas for wind turbine components. This grant goes a long way toward supporting jobs inside the terminal, the construction jobs necessary to prepare the terminal and those new positions that will be needed to support this growing industry.”
UA Local 110 Business Manager Kris Begolly described the school’s five-year apprenticeship program that prepares students for a career in the plumbing and pipefitter industry.
“Our five-year registered apprenticeship program combines classroom and on-the-job training that provides theory and hands-on training to ensure a safe worksite and a skilled craftsman,” said Kris Begolly, Business Manager of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 110. “From day one, our apprentices receive on-the-job training, family-sustaining wages, and good benefits that help move them and their families to the middle class. As an organization, our priority is helping workers. While there is not much work for pipefitters on the offshore portion of the CVOW project, its project labor agreement will do just that. And while our members will focus on the onshore portion of the project, there are several other trade unions with similar registered apprenticeship programs which will work the offshore portion of the project.”
There are currently efforts to lift up job quality in this new industry. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) added stipulations to leasing contracts requiring offshore wind developers to make every reasonable effort to enter into a project labor agreement (PLA) and submit a statement of goals for creating a domestic supply chain, efforts that advocates agree must continue.
“We can both power our homes and businesses with clean energy and create good-paying, union jobs by growing our offshore wind industry,” said Lee Francis, Deputy Director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. “As this industry grows and prospers off the coast of Virginia and up and down the East Coast, we will need a robust, well-trained workforce, which is why these apprenticeship programs are so vital. And as we’re putting more turbines into service, it’s vital that this industry puts workers first.”
“We must also make sure the jobs in construction and maintenance being created in this sector are good-paying jobs and they are available to workers of color,” said Gilbert Bland, CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads. “It’s vital we get this right. Offshore wind isn’t just an opportunity to power our future, it’s an opportunity to build a more equitable economy and country. That equity must be built in. It won’t just happen. And we need training programs like the one we’re seeing today to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to be trained for a job that will give them a better life.”
“Union apprenticeship programs like the one we’ve learned about today are an important component to any effort to train workers,” said Jason Parker, President of the Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council. “Having highly skilled, trained workers has many benefits, including improving the efficiency gains seen from investments and ensuring safety for workers.”
“There is massive potential for job creation in the growing offshore wind industry, in the construction, operations and maintenance, and manufacturing sectors,” said BlueGreen Alliance Policy Advisor Brennen Cain. “We need to prepare our workers and ensure they have the training to seize the opportunities coming out of this growing field. The creation of training programs and curricula that both prepare our domestic workforce and align with the needs of industry are critical. We must act quickly to capture the full economic benefits of this industry.”