Wind Industry Workers, Local Leaders Call on Congressman Upton to Save Jobs

Local labor and environmental leaders today joined a furloughed worker from wind turbine-maker Gamesa in front of the office of Congressman Fred Upton to call for him to support an immediate extension of the Production Tax Credit.

September 27, 2012

Area Leaders Join Touring Worker Facing Furloughs to Call for Renewal of the Production Tax Credit to Save 37,000 American Jobs, Ensure U.S. Can Compete in Global Clean Energy Industry

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (September 27, 2012) Local labor and environmental leaders today joined a furloughed worker from wind turbine-maker Gamesa in front of the office of Congressman Fred Upton to call for him to support an immediate extension of the Production Tax Credit. The lack of action on the 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour tax incentive for wind energy — set to expire at the end of the year — was directly blamed by Gamesa for its decision to institute furloughs at two plants in Pennsylvania, including the plant of Ryan Motel, a United Steelworkers Local 2635 member who is currently on furlough.

“My job is at stake, but so are the jobs of many others,” said Motel. “If companies aren’t building wind farms because they’re not sure what their return on their investment will be, they aren’t buying our blades. My message to Congress is simple: end this uncertainty, save my job, and save the jobs of thousands of people like me across the country.”

Since this summer, more than 2,000 workers in the wind industry have been laid-off or furloughed and companies have cited the lack of certainty on the tax incentive as a main cause of them. Renewing the Production Tax Credit will put people back to work and protect the jobs of 37,000 more workers who stand to lose their jobs if it is not renewed. Gamesa employs approximately 900 workers in the U.S., with 800 of those jobs in the state of Pennsylvania.

Motel has joined other workers in the wind industry in Pennsylvania and Ohio to call on members of Congressional leadership to bring the Production Tax Credit up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The tour will continue tomorrow in Richmond, Virginia.

“Clean energy incentives like the Production Tax Credit have created jobs right here in Michigan and around the country,” said Tom Bowes, Director of Education and Outreach for the Electrical Industry Training Center and a member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 58. “Workers in the wind industry have had good, family sustaining jobs – until now. Congress needs to step up, and save the thousands of jobs at stake by renewing the PTC.”

The American Wind Energy Association estimates that the Production Tax Credit will allow the wind industry to grow from the current 75,000 jobs to 500,000 jobs by 2030. Extending the Production Tax Credit through 2016 would increase total wind-supported jobs to 95,000, with total wind investment growing to $16.3 billion. However, without an extension, America stands to lose 37,000 jobs.

“Congress needs to understand the importance of these jobs to America and Michigan,” said Lee Geisse, a member of the USW Local 1046 in Louisville, Ohio. “Without an extension, the Production Tax Credit expires at the end of the year; to save and create thousands of good jobs we need Congressman Upton to push his leaders to call a vote on extending the Production Tax Credit. We’re here today to call for Congress to get this done as soon as possible to ensure these workers have jobs for the long-term.”

The tax incentive is moving in the U.S. Senate, passing with bipartisan support from the Senate Finance Committee just prior to the beginning of the August recess, but it remains stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“There are real jobs in Michigan that are being threatened by this, and it’s preventable if only Congress would do the right thing,” said Brad van Guilder, an Organizing Representative for the Sierra Club. “Extending the Production Tax Credit would be good for our economy, our environment and for workers in Michigan and around the country.”

Wind turbines consist of 8,000 parts and 200 tons of steel. Since 2005, the domestic content in American wind turbines has grown from less than 25 percent to 60 percent in 2011.

The labor and environmental leaders argued the benefits of wind go beyond good jobs. “Renewal of the Production Tax Credit will mean cleaner air and better jobs in our region,” said Frank Szollosi, the Regional Outreach Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. “We need to save and create thousands of good jobs that are also good for our environment. This needs to happen, and happen now.”