Laborers International Union of North America regional research manager for Minnesota and North Dakota Lucas Franco talked about transitioning from fossil fuel usage to renewable energies and how it can impact local workers and economies on the Sept. 14 episode of America’s Work Force Union Podcast.
From fossil fuels to renewable energy
As many regions begin to transition from using fossil fuels to create energy to more renewable options, those in labor have a few things they would like to see happen along with the transition.
Franco said there is a shift occurring. Energy development is switching from coal and fossil fuels to renewable or clean forms such as natural gasses, wind and solar energy.
He said in North Dakota and Minnesota the renewable energy projects have created many good paying union jobs that include benefits, mobility and the ability to support a family.
Franco then spoke of a dilemma being faced by many local governments, unions and workers. Embracing these clean energy plans may come at a price of local jobs. On the bright side, new facilities and infrastructure will need to be built, potentially creating more jobs than already exist.
LiUNA leading the way
He said LiUNA is an all around infrastructure union. He said LiUNA members will fight for work on any project, from coal to oil and wind and solar. LiUNA is positioning themselves to have more work opportunities for their members by being open to more types of projects.
In the Minnesota and North Dakota regions, Franco said people are frustrated after seeing years worth of wind and solar energy work go to out-of-state workers who would take the money back home with them when they left.
Today, Franco said 60 percent or more of workers on new wind farms in Minnesota are local and nearly all projects are union built.
He said they were able to change the Minnesota market through agreements with Engineering, Procurement and Construction contractors to employ local labor. They also led initiatives to collaborate with local apprenticeship programs to recruit and train local workers so they would have the necessary skills to work on these projects.